It seems Lillian Hellman‘s powerful 1934 play “The Children’s Hour” is in demand right now. A major West End revival is being mounted early next year starring Keira Knightly & Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men). Furthermore a TV remake is on the cards.
Set in an all-girls boarding school run by two women, Karen and Martha. An angry malicious student, Mary runs away from the school and to avoid being sent back tells her grandmother that the two teachers are having a lesbian affair. The accusation proceeds to destroy the women’s careers, relationships and lives.
The original production opened on Broadway in 1934 and ran for 691 performances. It was Hellman’s first play and was a huge success. It was controversial because of the homosexual subject matter which at the time was illegal to mention on the US stage – for some reason due to it high praise and popularity it was overlooked.
In 1936 a film adaptation directed by William Wyler was made. Due to the film production code of the time the central relationship was turned into a heterosexual one. It was renamed “These Three” starring Merle Oberon, Miriam Hopkins and Joel McCrea. Even with the changes the film was well received due to the excellent writing by Hellman. Wyler revisited the material in 1961 directing a remake with the original title and the lesbian storyline re-instated, although it was watered down and only hinted at, never spoken. It starred Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine and James Garner.
I was fortunate to see a production at London’s National Theatre back in 1994. It starred Clare Higgins, and a then unknown young actress Emily Watson as the vile child Mary.
The upcoming TV remake has yet to be cast. It intends to modernize the story, highlighting how the social media can help to alter and ruin lives. I guess this means Facebook or its like might come into play. An interesting take.