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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

These Three (1936)

After graduating from college, two friends (Miriam Hopkins, Merle Oberon) decide to renovate a broken down farmhouse and turn it into a private girls school. Things are going very well until a spoiled malicious brat (Bonita Granville) spreads a vicious lie that Hopkins is having sex with Oberon's fiance (Joel McCrea) late at night in her room. The lie escalates until the three lives are destroyed. Based on Lillian Hellman's 1934 play THE CHILDREN'S HOUR and directed by William Wyler. This being 1936 and the production code in full swing, Hellman had to change the nature of the lie. In the play, the lie is that the two teachers were lesbian lovers. Normally, such concessions weaken the material but in this case, it doesn't hurt it at all since it's about the lie, not sexual orientation. Hellman's screenplay is solid as is Wyler's assured direction and the performances are strong especially Hopkins and by Alma Kruger as Granville's grandmother. The film only falters in the last 10 minutes or so as the tragic ending of Hellman's play gives way to a mawkish "happy" ending as a sop to 1936 audiences. Wyler would remake the film in 1961 staying true to Hellman's original play and Hopkins would play the silly Aunt (played by Catherine Doucet here). With Walter Brennan, Margaret Hamilton and Marcia Mae Jones.

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