Book Vs. Movie: The Children’s Hour
The 1934 Play Vs. the 1936 & 1961 Adaptations
Lillian Hellman’s first play, The Children’s Hour, caused a sensation in 1934 when it debuted on Broadway with the tale of two schoolteachers accused of being lesbians when homosexuality was illegal in much of the U.S. The show was so scandalous that a Chicago run was canceled. Hellman always stated that the play’s moral was about the power of lies and how they can affect an entire community.
In 1936, Hellman wrote the screenplay for its first adaptation, These Three, starring Merle Oberon, Miriam Hopkins, and Joel McRea, jettisoning the lesbian subplot. It was directed by William Wyler, who reluctantly allowed the changes due to the Hays Code but was eager to take on the material again one day.
In this episode, the Margos talk about the 1936 & 1961 adaptations with most of the original script intact, both directed by Wyler.
The story takes place in New England with two friends who run an all-girls boarding school and have a student who gossips about their relationship. While the parents are upset about having lesbians around their children, Karen and Martha fight for their careers and reputation.
What are the other differences between the original play and the film? Which version did the Margos like better? Have a listen!
In this ep the Margos discuss:
- Playwright Lillian Hellman and her politics
- The censoring of the original work to film
- The cast of the 1961 film: Audrey Hepburn (Karen,) Shiley MacLaine (Martha,) James Garner (Joe,) Miriam Hopkins (Lily,) Fay Bainter (Amelia,) Karen Balkin (Mary,) Veronica Cartwright (Rosalie,) and Mimi Gibson as Evelyn.
- Aunt Lily confronts Martha
- These Three trailer (1936)
- The Children’s Hour (1961 trailer)
- BBC 1971 play
- Mary and Cousin Joe talk
- The coming-out scene
- Karen announces her wedding day
- Music: Alex North
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