These Three (1936)

90 or 93 mins | Drama | 18 March 1936

Director:

William Wyler

Producer:

Samuel Goldwyn

Cinematographer:

Gregg Toland

Editor:

Daniel Mandell

Production Designer:

Richard Day

Production Company:

Samuel Goldwyn, Inc.
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HISTORY

In Lillian Hellman's original play, and in all written material on the film, the character of the young doctor is "Joseph Cardin." In the film itself, however, the character played by Joel McCrea is called "Bill Cardin" in scenes at the beginning of the film. No explanation, other than continuity error, has been found for this change. This film was the first of eight pictures that William Wyler directed for Samuel Goldwyn during the 1930s and 1940s. Hellman's play was partially inspired by an actual case in Scotland in 1810 which resulted in a ten-year libel suit brought by the teachers involved. On screen credit does not mention the play on which the film was based. According to contemporary news items and information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the play was not to be mentioned on screen or in any publicity materials prepared for the film by agreement among Hellman, Goldwyn, and the Hays Office. An inter office memo to Will H. Hays, dated 6 Jan 1935, notes that a news item had been broadcast on radio station WMCA that Dorothy and Lillian Gish were reportedly going to Hollywood to appear in a film version of The Children's Hour . The memo indicates that Joseph I. Breen, director of studio relations for the Hays Office in Hollywood, did not know of such a project and "in fact it is his understanding that they are all skeptical about its picture possibilities." No other information about a film version of the play to star the Gish sisters has been located, and it is possible ... More Less

In Lillian Hellman's original play, and in all written material on the film, the character of the young doctor is "Joseph Cardin." In the film itself, however, the character played by Joel McCrea is called "Bill Cardin" in scenes at the beginning of the film. No explanation, other than continuity error, has been found for this change. This film was the first of eight pictures that William Wyler directed for Samuel Goldwyn during the 1930s and 1940s. Hellman's play was partially inspired by an actual case in Scotland in 1810 which resulted in a ten-year libel suit brought by the teachers involved. On screen credit does not mention the play on which the film was based. According to contemporary news items and information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the play was not to be mentioned on screen or in any publicity materials prepared for the film by agreement among Hellman, Goldwyn, and the Hays Office. An inter office memo to Will H. Hays, dated 6 Jan 1935, notes that a news item had been broadcast on radio station WMCA that Dorothy and Lillian Gish were reportedly going to Hollywood to appear in a film version of The Children's Hour . The memo indicates that Joseph I. Breen, director of studio relations for the Hays Office in Hollywood, did not know of such a project and "in fact it is his understanding that they are all skeptical about its picture possibilities." No other information about a film version of the play to star the Gish sisters has been located, and it is possible that the radio item was supposition.
       Hellman's play, which modern sources state was purchased for $50,000, follows the same basic story as the film, but the gossip that is spread about the teachers in the play concerns their lesbian relationship rather than an implied ménage a trois . Because the Production Code would not even allow even an accusation of lesbianism on screen, the title and central issue was altered. A news item in HR on 17 Aug 1935 noted that when the play was purchased the main characters would have to be changed from two women to a man and a woman, however, the two women characters remained in the final version of the story. Once the final version of the screenplay was submitted to the Hays Office, very little was deemed problematic. requested that the word "damn" be deleted from one of Karen's speeches; it was not in the completed film. Subsequent to the film's preview for the Hays Office, Goldwyn was informed that " These Three has turned out to be an outstanding picture. The questionable elements in the original stage play have been entirely eliminated." The picture was issued a Purity Seal and was approved without eliminations in most states and foreign territories. According to Hellman's autobiographical works, she was happy with the film and felt that the malicious result of false accusation and gossip was the central issue of the story rather than the nature of the gossip.
       Portions of the film were shot on location at UCLA and in Franklyn Canyon, both in Los Angeles, according to news items. A news item also notes that Helen Laughlin, who acted as a technical advisor on the film was the Dean of Women at UCLA. Modern sources include Frank McGlynn, Anya Taranda, and Jerry Larkin as additional cast members. Barbara Stanwyck and Errol Flynn performed on a Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the story on 6 Dec 1937. A remake of the film, also directed by William Wyler, was released in 1961 under the title The Children's Hour (see entry), and starred Shirley MacLaine, Audrey Hepburn, and James Garner. Miriam Hopkins played the part of the aunt in that production, which retained the accusation of lesbianism theme from the play, although the word was never actually used. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Oct 35
p. 1.
Daily Variety
20 Nov 35
p. 1.
Daily Variety
11 Dec 35
p. 5.
Daily Variety
22 Feb 36
p. 3.
Film Daily
25 Feb 36
p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 35
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 35
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
3 Dec 35
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Feb 36
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
23 Mar 36
pp. 5-8.
Motion Picture Herald
18 Jan 36
p. 26.
Motion Picture Herald
29 Feb 36
p. 41, 44
New York Times
19 Mar 36
p. 22.
Variety
25 Mar 36
p. 15.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
Orig story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman (New York, 20 Nov 1934).
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 March 1936
Production Date:
20 November 1935--late January 1936
Copyright Claimant:
Samuel Goldwyn
Copyright Date:
9 March 1936
Copyright Number:
LP6l94
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Noiseless Recording
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
90 or 93
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
2003
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

After Karen Wright and Martha Dobi graduate from college, they turn Karen's Massachusetts farm into a boarding school, encouraged by Joseph Cardin, a local doctor. The school opens thanks to the wealthy Mrs. Tilford, who sends her difficult granddaughter Mary there. Karen and Joe fall in love, unaware that Martha is in love with Joe, and trouble begins when Martha's self-serving, frivolous aunt, Lily Mortar, comes to stay. One evening, Joe comes to visit Mary, who has gone out, and falls asleep in an easy chair in Martha's room. When he leaves a short time after awakening, Lily sees him and assumes the worst. A few days later, when Mary is caught in a silly lie, she feigns a heart attack, and Joe is summoned, precipitating a quarrel between Martha and her aunt. Lily leaves, but not before loudly confronting Martha with accusations about Joe. When Martha discovers that Rosalie Wells and another student have been listening at the door, she asks them to leave, and accidentally closes the door on Rosemary's arm. Martha apologizes and Rosalie doesn't plan to tell anyone, but when Mary finds a missing bracelet that belongs to another girl among Rosalie's things, she forces the frightened Rosalie into revealing her secret. Mary then goes to her grandmother's house and distorts her story about the argument, then bullies Rosalie into backing her up by threatening to reveal her theft of a girl's bracelet and by twisting her injured arm. Mrs. Tilford is shocked at the accusation and sees to it that all of the girls leave the school. Martha and Karen do not know why all ... +


After Karen Wright and Martha Dobi graduate from college, they turn Karen's Massachusetts farm into a boarding school, encouraged by Joseph Cardin, a local doctor. The school opens thanks to the wealthy Mrs. Tilford, who sends her difficult granddaughter Mary there. Karen and Joe fall in love, unaware that Martha is in love with Joe, and trouble begins when Martha's self-serving, frivolous aunt, Lily Mortar, comes to stay. One evening, Joe comes to visit Mary, who has gone out, and falls asleep in an easy chair in Martha's room. When he leaves a short time after awakening, Lily sees him and assumes the worst. A few days later, when Mary is caught in a silly lie, she feigns a heart attack, and Joe is summoned, precipitating a quarrel between Martha and her aunt. Lily leaves, but not before loudly confronting Martha with accusations about Joe. When Martha discovers that Rosalie Wells and another student have been listening at the door, she asks them to leave, and accidentally closes the door on Rosemary's arm. Martha apologizes and Rosalie doesn't plan to tell anyone, but when Mary finds a missing bracelet that belongs to another girl among Rosalie's things, she forces the frightened Rosalie into revealing her secret. Mary then goes to her grandmother's house and distorts her story about the argument, then bullies Rosalie into backing her up by threatening to reveal her theft of a girl's bracelet and by twisting her injured arm. Mrs. Tilford is shocked at the accusation and sees to it that all of the girls leave the school. Martha and Karen do not know why all of the girls are withdrawn from school and are incredulous when one of the girls's chauffeurs tells them why. They then confront Mrs. Tilford, but Rosalie is so frightened by Mary that she hysterically cries that it is true. Martha and Karen then sue Mrs. Tilford for libel, but, with Lily not there to testify, they lose. After the humiliation of the case and Joe's dismissal from his hospital over the scandal, Lily finally returns, acting as if everything is fine, and pretending that she thought her testimony would be irrelevant. Though they hope to start their lives over, the pressure has been too great, and Karen and Joe part when she admits that she, too, now believes the lies. Martha then admits to Karen that she does love Joe but he has never known. Martha decides to leave with Lily, but on the train, when Lily casually mentions the story of the missing bracelet, Martha realizes what has happened. She then goes to Rosalie and gently helps her reveal the truth. Now realizing the horrible wrong that she has done, Mrs. Tilford offers recompense, but Martha only asks her to tell Karen to follow Joe. Finally, in a cafe in Vienna, Karen and Joe are happily reunited. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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