The Children’s Hour (1961) lesbian film

The Children’s Hour is a drama written by John Michael Hayes and directed by William Wyler as a remake of These Three (1936). The film is an adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s eponym play published in 1934. Karen Wright and Martha Dobie are best friends since college and they own the boarding school Wright and Dobie School for Girls with twenty students. They are working hard as headmistresses and teachers to grow the school and make it profitable. Karen is engaged with the local doctor Joe Cardin, who is the nephew of the powerful and influential Mrs. Amelia Tilford. While the spiteful and liar Mary, who is Amelia’s granddaughter and a bad influence to the other girls, is punished by Karen after telling a lie, Martha has an argument with her snoopy aunt Lily Mortar in another room. Lily accuses Martha of being jealous and having an unnatural relationship with Karen. Mary’s roommate Rosalie Wells overhears the shouting and tells Mary what Mrs. Mortar had said about her niece. The malicious Mary accuses Karen and Martha of being lesbians to her grandmother and Amelia spreads the gossip to the parents of the students that withdraw them from the school. Karen and Martha lose a lawsuit…. The protagonists are portrayed by Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine.

2 Responses

  1. Bent Boho says:

    Lillian Hellman’s play was based on a true story about two Scottish schoolteachers, who, in 1810, were accused and who brought a libel suit that resulted in a “Scotch Verdict” (unproven or inconclusive).

    Lillian Faderman, award-winning author of Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, gives an extraordinary rendering of the real-life story…in her book, “Scotch Verdict”. Faderman reconstructs the libel suit filed by Pirie and Woods…. Through court transcripts, judges’ notes, and her personal reflections on the witnesses’ contradictory testimony and the prejudices of the men presiding over the case, Faderman skillfully documents the social, economic, and sexual pressures that shaped the lives of nineteenth-century women.

    [Spoiler] In the real story, it is quite possibly true that the women were lovers, but there is a complexity to the accusation.

  2. Bent Boho says:

    In the first movie, “These Three”, the plot was changed to be less controversial (!)–the women were accused of a sort of menage a trois, implying the women were sharing the male fiance.

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