One of Wyler's finest films, and the occasion for one of the finest Goldwynisms. When warned that the play he'd just bought, Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, was about lesbians, Goldwyn supposedly replied, "That's okay: we'll turn them into Americans." Although Hellman's screenplay
jettisons explicit lesbianism in conformance with the Hays Code, the resulting movie abounds with repressed eroticism and is far superior to Wyler's post-Code remake THE CHILDREN'S HOUR.
Bonita Granville, in an Oscar-nominated role, plays Mary Tilford, a mean, vicious girl who is censured by her teachers at a posh private school run by college friends Martha and Karen (Miriam Hopkins and Merle Oberon). Martha is an austere Yankee type, while Karen is a warm woman who is in love
with local doctor Joseph Cardin (Joel McCrea). He reciprocates her passion but maintains a close friendship with Martha. Mary retaliates by telling her grandmother (Alma Kruger) that Martha and Joe had been "carrying on" in a bedroom near the student's quarters. The grandmother believes her,
especially after the lie is corroborated by nine-year-old Rosalie (Marcia Mae Jones, every bit as good as Granville). Mary is ruthlessly blackmailing the other girl with the knowlege that Rosalie has stolen another girl's gold bracelet. Martha, Karen, and Joe file a libel suit against Mary's
grandmother after she advises parents to remove their children from the iniquitous school, but it's dismissed in court. The truth eventually comes out, but the damage is done.
Samuel Goldwyn took advantage of the notoriety of Hellman's scandalous stage effort by releasing the movie while the play was still running, but the Production Code people insisted he remove much of what made it such a sensation. Goldwyn hired Hellman to make the alterations, and her script
changes, there are many moments when it seems that Hopkins is more interested in Oberon than McCrea. However one reads it, THESE THREE is gripping, adult cinema. Oberon gives one of her best dramatic performances and McCrea is also quite fine. The two child actresses have the showiest parts, but
the real performances to watch are those of Alma Kruger and Miriam Hopkins. Hopkins, in particular, has rarely been better, her intense, high-strung quality perfectly suited to the role of a woman unable to stop her world from falling apart around her.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: One of Wyler's finest films, and the occasion for one of the finest Goldwynisms. When warned that the play he'd just bought, Lillian Hellman's The Children's Hour, was about lesbians, Goldwyn supposedly replied, "That's okay: we'll turn them into Americans… (more)