Actress Shirley MacLaine admitted the movie The Children’s Hour, in which she and Audrey Hepburn played two women running a girls’ school and were accused of being lovers, wasn’t as powerful as it could have been because of “trepidation” the director had about the lesbian theme.
“It was 1961 and nobody had done that,” MacLaine said 54 years later at the screening of the movie at the TCM Classic Movie Festival in Hollywood. “Scenes of brushing each other’s hair or ironing clothes – he cut some of them out and in doing so I think pared the picture down a little bit.”
The film, based on Lillian Hellman’s play which was banned in some cities because of its lesbian theme, focused on the best friends as they open their school. When they finally start to make money, they are accused of being lesbians.
“That kind of same-sex love was not tolerated,” MacLaine said.
Director William Wyler had filmed another version of a Hellmen’s play earlier in which one of the women is rumored to be having “relations” with the other’s fiancé. In that film the ending is happy, while The Children’s Hour ends with a funeral.
MacLane said she thinks he decided to remake the play again because his first version strayed so far from the original play.
Regardless of the softened lesbian scenes, MacLane said she enjoyed him as a director and liked working with Hepburn.
“I adored Audrey Hepburn,” she said. “We had a wonderful relationship.”