But none of these references were permitted in Hollywood in those years. By the time Hellman and Wyler returned to the story in 1961, those restrictions had been relaxed. They produced a film in 1961 which contrasted greatly with the earlier version. It was much closer to the grim, unpleasant tone of the original play and included the references to homosexuality not permitted in 1936.
The story of “The Children’s Hour” involves two female school teachers running a private school for young girls. One of the teachers, Karen, is engaged to a doctor, Joe. When one of the girls in the school, Mary, is angry at the teachers for disciplining her, she makes up a lie to her grandmother about seeing the two women involved in a way that was “unnatural” (20 Best Plays of the Modern American Theater Complete, Gassner, John, Editor, Hellman, Lillian, The Children’s Hour, Act II, sc. 1, p.578, Crown Publishers, New York, 1965). The girl bullies a fellow student at the school into supporting her story. The grandmother believes them and eventually, she tells all the other parents about the charge. Soon, all the students are removed from the school, leaving the two teachers with no means of support.
The 1961 film follows this storyline closely. But the lie that the young girl tells about the teachers was changed dramatically for “These Three.” The rumor she spread was that the teacher not engaged, Martha, was also involved romantically with the doctor. In the 1936 film version, this was considered enough of a scandal to ruin the two schoolteachers. Eventually, in both films, the grandmother who believed her granddaughter and ruined the lives of the teachers finds out the truth and tries to make reparations.
In “These Three,” the discovery that the child Mary was lying leads to a happy ending. Joe and Karen are married and Martha, though she may also be in love with Joe,