There’s been a lot of buzz about The Children’s Hour lately, which is strange considering Lillian Hellman‘s play was penned in 1934. But with Keira Knightley and Elisabeth Moss starring in a new stage production in the West End in January, it seems the lesbian-themed story is enjoying a resurgence. Now GK Films has bought the rights to produce a modern version of The Children’s Hour.
At such an early stage, there aren’t any rumors as to who will star just yet, but with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley McClaine starring in the original 1963 film, there are some big shoes to fill.
The story revolves around Karen Wright and Martha Dobie, friends who build a boarding school together. Some of the pupils suspect the two women are lovers, and a student named Mary begins to circulate the rumor. Soon, parents of the pupils begin to hear that their childrens’ teachers are lesbians. Martha and Karen attempt to sue Mary’s mother but lose. For those who haven’t seen the play or the film, I won’t ruin the rest.
The Children’s Hour is particularly relevant today because of the growing number of teacher/student affairs that are being reported. Recently, a 29-year-old teacher in the UK pleaded guilty to having a relationship with her 15-year-old student. Although neither Martha or Karen have relationships with their pupils, suspicions of their lesbianism is enough to have parents upset at the idea of their children being subjected to the "homosexual lifestyle."
There have been other films set in schools where female teachers and their students have relationships, including Mädchen in Uniform (both the 1931 version and the 1958 remake) and Loving Annabelle (2006). In those stories, the relationships are romanticized, despite ending in some form of punishment for the professors.
Since the TV movie will be a modern day telling of The Children’s Hour, I am curious as to how different it will be to accommodate today’s somewhat more tolerant attitude toward lesbian teachers in schools. Of course, when it comes to out gay teachers there are still some wary parents and school systems. It’ll be an interesting story to see retold and updated to the current era — especially in comparison to the original.