The Children’s Hour (1961)
I was introduced to this movie when I was at City College of San Francisco and I was taking a Queer Film course. This course utilized “The Celluloid Closet” as its primary text, but it utilized films to highlight important points about film history in terms of the queer community. This film highlighted an important point on how queer identities were hushed and not fully talked about on screen, even when the plot surrounded elements of those identities. This film is based on “The Children’s Hour” play by Lillian Hellman. In this film, a little girl gets mad at a couple of women who run a private school for girls, so she tells her grandmother a lie about the two women. This women catapults the entire plot forward. The dynamics that occur between the women, one of the women’s fiancee, the girl, and the grandmother as well. All these dynamics that intertwine and spin a wicked web of deceit based on a single lie by a spoiled child. This was one of the first queer films that I saw, as I lead a very sheltered life. While it was only discussed in whispers, this film is considered a pioneer of queer film. This film also deals with what damage lies can do to various people caught up in the lie, which is the part that drew me into it. I fell in love with seeing what happened to each of these characters because of a spun yarn. I was mesmerized with Shirley MacLaine’s acting and taken in by the sheer beauty of Audrey Hepburn. While other films have dealt between with the subject matter of lesbian identities, this film was a starting point. I would love to see this remade in a modern world where conversations about queer identities is more open than it previously used to be. It would be interesting to see the contrast. I own this movie on DVD and I rewatch it from time to time to remind myself that we must always be truthful because we don’t know what will happen if we are not.