Friday, April 09, 2010

Know Your LGBT History - The Children's Hour

A controversial play Lillian Hellman became a controversial movie in 1961, The Children's Hour.

Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine portray the owners of a private school for girls in New England. One of the girls (Karen Milkin) is a hateful little monster who is punished when she is caught in a lie. So she tells a bigger lie to her aunt (Fay Bainter), a wealthy and prominent member of the community, that the two women are lesbians and that she saw them kissing.

The blowback is ugly as Hepburn and MacLaine lose everything and the community shuns them. And it gets worse for MacLaine as this heartbreaking scene shows.

It's an ugly way for someone to come to grips with their God-given sexual orientation and a hard scene to watch. By the way, the child's lie is discovered, but does it even make a difference?

Past Know Your LGBT History postings

Know Your LGBT History - Sylvester

Know Your LGBT History - Once Bitten

Know Your LGBT History - The Boys in the Band

Know Your LGBT History - Christopher Morley, the crossdressing assassin

Know Your LGBT History - Midnight Cowboy

Know Your LGBT History - Dracula's Daughter

Know Your LGBT History - Blacula

Know Your LGBT History - 3 Strikes

Know Your LGBT History - Paris Is Burning

Know Your LGBT History - The Women

Know your LGBT History - Soul Plane

Know Your LGBT History - The Player's Club

Special Know Your LGBT History - Fame

Know Your LGBT History - Welcome Home, Bobby

Know Your LGBT History - Barney Miller

Know your lgbt history - The Jerry Springer Show

Know your lgbt history - Martin Lawrence and that 'gay guy' on his show

Know your lgbt history - The Ricki Lake Show

Know your lgbt history - Which Way Is Up

Know your lgbt history - Gays in Primetime Soaps

Know your lgbt history - Boys Beware

Know your lgbt history - The Boondocks

Know your lgbt history - Mannequin

Know your lgbt history - The Warriors

Know Your LGBT History - New York Undercover

Know Your LGBT History - Low Down Dirty Shame

Know Your LGBT History - Fortune and Men's Eyes

Know your lgbt history - California Suite

Know your lgbt history - Taxi (Elaine's Strange Triangle)

Know your lgbt history - Come Back Charleston Blue

Know your lgbt history - James Bond goes gay

Know your lgbt history - Windows

Know your lgbt history - To Wong Foo and Priscilla

Know your lgbt history - Blazing Saddles

Know your lgbt history - Sanford and Son

Know your lgbt history - In Living Color

Know your lgbt history - Cleopatra Jones and her lesbian drug lords

Know your lgbt history - Norman, Is That You?

Know your lgbt history - The 'Exotic' Adrian Street

Know your lgbt history - The Choirboys

Know your lgbt history - Eddie Murphy

Know your lgbt history - The Killing of Sister George

Know your lgbt history - Hanna-Barbera cartoons pushes the 'gay agenda

'Know your lgbt history - Cruising

Know your lgbt history - Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones

Know your lgbt history - I Got Da Hook Up

Know your lgbt history - Fright Night

Know your lgbt history - Flowers of Evil

The Jeffersons and the transgender community   

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Bill S said...

I'd been wondering when/if you were going to post about this film.
A few thoughts:
When I was in high school, I ran across a book that compiled some of Pauline Kael's older film reviews, including this one. I was amused that Kael-who I'd always thought was one of the more progressive film critics, wrote in her 1961 review that "lesbianism is all in the mind (after all, there isn't much that lesbians can DO)"
In the documentrary "The Celluloid Closet", Shirley MacLaine admitted frankly that they "didn't do the picture right" and also said that during the filming, she and Audrey Hepburn never really discussed what the movie was ABOUT.
As depressing as the movie is, I think it was actually intended to be sympathetic towards lesbians. MacLaine's character is depicted as a victim instead of a predator, which, sadly, in 1961 Hollywood, actually WAS progress.
In spite of the script's failings, it's actually a very well-made picture from a technical standpoint, as you'd expeect with a director like William Wyler on hand, and the talented cast that was assembled. (I always find it jarring how YOUNG Shirley looked back then-she seems more like a teenager than a young woman.)
European films of the day tended to treat gay and lesbian characters a little better-I'm thinking for example of Claire Bloom's character in the British movie "The Haunting". I'm wracking my brain trying to name the first truly sympathetic lesbian character in an American film. I think it was Estelle Parsons in "Rachel, Rachel"(1968), but it's been a long time since I've seen it.

Bill S said...

SCARY THOUGHT (and I'm probably right)-
The way Shirley describes her feelings in this scene-the degree of shame and torment she feels-I'll bet this is EXACTLY how people like Linda Harvey, Porno Pete, et al,, WANT us to see ourselves.

Bill S said...

Hey, for your next "Know Your LGBT History" post, how about the "Designing Women" episode "Killing All the Right People"?

BlackTsunami said...

It's definitely on the list and I think that I can find the clip. Interestingly enough, that was the first episode of Designing Women I ever saw.