Hollywood has a long history of removing the gay themes from movie adaptations of books and films, particularly in the past. The Children’s Hour is a good case in point, as when Lillian Hellman’s play became the film These Three in 1936 any hint at lesbianism was removed, and while it was almost there in the 1961 version with Shirley Maclaine an Audrey Hepburn, it was very much hidden under the surface.
Now Maclaine has been talking about the issues the film faced at the TCM Classic Movie Festival. Gay Star News reports that she comment that director William Wyler, “Had trepidations about the subject matter – it was 1961 and nobody had done that.”
Indeed she suggests he cut out any scene that hinted at intimacy between the women, saying “Scenes of brushing each others hair or ironing clothes – he cut some of them out and in doing so I think pared the picture down a little bit.”
The movie is about two female teachers at an exclusive school, whose lives are shattered when a rumour starts to spread about them, started by one of the children. While the 1961 movie does suggest that the rumour is they are lovers, it never properly says that, and also makes clear that nothing has happened (although Maclaine does her best to hint her character would like there to be something going on). In These Three things don’t even get that far, with the suggestion being that one has slept with the other’s fiance, while in Hellman’s original play it’s strongly suggested that the two women did indeed have a relationship.
However Maclaine says that it would have been very difficult to do anything else in 1961, as “That kind of same-(sex) love was not tolerated” .