The Children’s Hour is a story of two former college classmates, Martha (Shirley MacLaine) and Karen (Audrey Hepburn), who decide to open a private school for girls. When a young student named Mary is caught bullying other girls at the school, Martha and Karen seek to punish the girl appropriately. However, the conniving young Mary seeks to turn the tables and threatens to tell everyone about how she saw Martha and Karen kissing.
Karen, who is engaged to a local doctor named Joe (played by James Garner), is currently planning her wedding. As a woman about to be married and in charge of a prestigious school, scandal is not in her best interest. She seeks to squash the rumors, yet secretly harbors feelings for Martha. However, the two women are looked upon with disgust. Joe offers to take Karen and Martha away, where they can all begin a new life. Karen, however, decides she must end her engagement with Joe.
Martha tells Karen not to let Joe leave, but Karen professes her feelings for Martha. Martha, in denial, believes the two are just friends and nothing more. She soon comes to realize that is not the case, as Martha does indeed love Karen and starts to feel responsible for the end of Karen’s engagement and the newfound struggles the two teachers now face. As Karen goes for a long walk to think about things, Martha quietly commits suicide in her room.
“Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine, in the leading roles, beautifully complement each other.”
Did You Know?
The 1961 iteration of The Children’s Hour is actually the third version of the story. Originally written for the stage by Lillian Hellman in 1934, Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn was forced to make drastic changes to the script for film, removing any mention of the main characters being in love or lesbians, due to the Hays Code. Nearly 25 years later, the Hays Code was finally relaxed, allowing director William Wyler to craft a film closer to what Ms. Hellman had originally intended many years prior. Review our Gay Themed Films Here