Shirley Maclaine was born on April 24, 1934. She rose to become one of the most iconic and beloved actresses of all time. Through out her array of roles, one of her performances sticks out the most to me. In the 1961 drama The Children’s Hour she stars along side Audrey Hepburn as a teacher who’s life is destroyed by a single lie.
Karen and Martha are two well respected teachers who worked from the bottom up building their own school. Karen is engaged to the nephew of a wealthy and influential woman who’s granddaughter attends the school. Sadly, this young girl is a bully and when she is caught in order to get out of trouble, she tells her grandmother that Karen and Martha are lovers. Now remember, this is 1961 and a homosexual relationship between two women was heavily frowned upon. When Amelia, the influential woman, hears this she starts to tell the other parents of the girls who attend the school. One by one all of the girls are pulled from the academy leaving Karen and Martha in shock and wonder. Upon hearing of this rumor, they approach Amelia who would not let them in her own house. Before this happened, the rumor worsened when her granddaughter blackmailed another student at the school into lying as well. With their reputations ruined and their school closed, Martha and Karen try sue Amelia in court. Unfortunately, their only witness was too dedicated to the theater to make the court day. With all of this going on Karen ends up breaking her engagement with her fiancee who has stood by her because he starts to believe that the rumor is true. Shortly after, the young girl who was blackmailed tells the truth to Amelia. In a rage, she shouts at her granddaughter to go to her room from the floor that she falls on. When Amelia goes to make things right with Karen and Martha she is treated coldly and sent away. For Karen and Martha nothing will make up for the pain that she has caused them. Upon her leaving Martha confesses to Karen that she has “feelings” for Karen that she knows will never be returned. After Karen comforts her, she goes up to her room where she hangs herself. The movie closes with Martha’s funeral. Karen’s ex fiancee, Amelia, and several of the parents of the girls who were taken out of the school attend. The movie closes with Karen walking away alone from Martha’s funeral, not saying a word to anyone else there with her head held high.
Although, Shirley Maclaine in this movie is not as well remembered, to me it sticks out the most. In The Children’s Hour we are introduced to two young teachers who lose everything over a lie only for one of them to know the lie to be part truth. In this 1961 classic, Shirley Maclaine shines as a teacher with her reputation ruined. On April 24, 1934 Shirley Maclaine was born, meaning she turns another year older today.