Children's Hour, The
Director: William Wyler
Year Released: 1961
[** Note: This review is for both "These Three" (1936) & "The Children's Hour" (1961) **]
If Godard was right when he suggested that the best way to criticize a film is by making one yourself, then Wyler, choosing to remake himself, was criticizing not only himself but also Hollywood censorship in the 30’s (and beyond). If he’d have been ecstatic with the first one, and deemed it a classic, perhaps he wouldn’t have decided to shoot it again. And so with The Children’s Hour, he wisely crops These Three’s first half-hour of the teachers leaving college and building the house, and starts with the girls’ school already built and running (with this much-needed trimming, it gives Wyler more time to develop his characters). Some of the earlier film’s shakier points are also made slightly clearer: the mischievous girl’s ‘knowledge’ of sex is suggested to have come from an illicit book she read, and the first film’s court trial was wisely cut out. But the acting in The Children’s Hour pales beside the first picture, as the supporting cast cannot compare to the first film’s: I’d take Joel McCrea over James Garner, Catherine Doucet over the older Miriam Hopkins as Aunt Lily (Hopkins isn’t nearly eccentric enough) and Bonita Granville over the pathetic Karen Balkin; I also like the ending to These Three a little more, since it doesn’t rely as much on melodrama, offering a much more optimistic outlook on the teachers’ future. I must give Lillian Hellman her due in what appears to be a timely issue: her view of children as being cunning and having the ability to ‘knowingly’ deceive and manipulate is relevant even today (children’s rights surpass that of the adults' in domestic matters), and her story does not disguise the fact that they are very often aware of the power they hold over their elders.
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