A Child Is Waiting (1963)

102 mins | Drama | 14 January 1963

Director:

John Cassavetes

Writer:

Abby Mann

Producer:

Stanley Kramer

Cinematographer:

Joseph La Shelle

Editor:

Gene Fowler Jr.

Production Designer:

Rudolph Sternad

Production Company:

Larcas Productions
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HISTORY

The 19 Feb 1961 NYT reported that Stanley Kramer acquired motion picture rights to the story by Abby Mann, originally produced by the Columbia Broadcasting Company (CBS) in Mar 1957 as a television drama. The 16 Oct 1961 LAT noted that Mann was commissioned two years earlier to write a film adaptation of the teleplay for actress Ingrid Bergman, but the project was later abandoned.
       As stated in the 13 Mar and 6 Nov 1961 DV, actor-singer Pat Boone lodged a protest with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Titles Bureau, claiming infringement on A Child Is Crying, which his Cooga Mooga Productions registered on 20 Feb 1961. Kramer registered A Child Is Waiting on 13 Mar 1961. New York-based Esla Productions was also mentioned in connection with the latter title.
       On 5 Jan 1962, DV reported that actor Burt Lancaster spent a week researching his role as a special education instructor at Pacific State Hospital in Pomona, CA. He and Mann were scheduled to visit a similar facility in AZ the following week. Principal photography began 22 Jan 1962 at Revue (Universal) Studios in Los Angeles, CA, as stated in 2 Feb 1962 DV production charts.
       In the 5 Feb 1962 LAT, Kramer told columnist Philip K. Scheuer that he, director John Cassavetes, and Abby Mann decided, “with misgivings,” to add mentally impaired children to the cast for the sake of authenticity. Pacific State Hospital superintendent Dr. George Tarjan selected three children, who were bussed with their teachers to ... More Less

The 19 Feb 1961 NYT reported that Stanley Kramer acquired motion picture rights to the story by Abby Mann, originally produced by the Columbia Broadcasting Company (CBS) in Mar 1957 as a television drama. The 16 Oct 1961 LAT noted that Mann was commissioned two years earlier to write a film adaptation of the teleplay for actress Ingrid Bergman, but the project was later abandoned.
       As stated in the 13 Mar and 6 Nov 1961 DV, actor-singer Pat Boone lodged a protest with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Titles Bureau, claiming infringement on A Child Is Crying, which his Cooga Mooga Productions registered on 20 Feb 1961. Kramer registered A Child Is Waiting on 13 Mar 1961. New York-based Esla Productions was also mentioned in connection with the latter title.
       On 5 Jan 1962, DV reported that actor Burt Lancaster spent a week researching his role as a special education instructor at Pacific State Hospital in Pomona, CA. He and Mann were scheduled to visit a similar facility in AZ the following week. Principal photography began 22 Jan 1962 at Revue (Universal) Studios in Los Angeles, CA, as stated in 2 Feb 1962 DV production charts.
       In the 5 Feb 1962 LAT, Kramer told columnist Philip K. Scheuer that he, director John Cassavetes, and Abby Mann decided, “with misgivings,” to add mentally impaired children to the cast for the sake of authenticity. Pacific State Hospital superintendent Dr. George Tarjan selected three children, who were bussed with their teachers to the studio. All three “deported themselves so well” that seventeen more Pacific State residents were requested. The most talented were assigned “individual scenes” with Lancaster and co-star Judy Garland. However, Scheuer ended the article by questioning the ethics of employing “human unfortunates” for commercial entertainment. On 14 Feb 1962, Scheuer reported that LAT readers overwhelmingly approved the children’s participation. He also included a letter from the parents of one of the children in question, assuring him that their son’s life was enhanced by the experience.
       An article in the 18 Feb 1962 NYT described how a scene was ruined when a boy with Down Syndrome admonished Lancaster for speaking harshly to one of his classmates. Lancaster assured the boy, nicknamed “Crash,” that he was merely pretending. While Lancaster conceded that he was required to adjust his performance to the children’s sometimes unpredictable behavior, he also believed they were much better qualified for their roles than professional child actors. Judy Garland revealed that she enjoyed working with mentally impaired children following her stay at Boston Hospital, where frequent interactions with such children reportedly hastened her recovery from a nervous breakdown. The article noted that Crash became the company mascot. A news item in the 11 Feb 1962 LAT stated that Garland was brought to tears when sixteen Pacific State residents asked for her autograph at the conclusion of a scene. According to the 12 Feb 1962 DV, New York Senator Jacob K. Javits visited the set, in keeping with his involvement with President John F. Kennedy’s program to aid the mentally impaired. Location filming began 10 Apr 1962 at Pacific State Hospital in Pomona, CA, as noted in that day’s DV.
       On 2 Nov 1962, DV reported that the picture’s debut would be postponed until Jan 1963, to enhance Lancaster’s chances of an Academy Award nomination for his performance in The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962, see entry). One month later, the 4 Dec 1962 LAT noted that composer Ernest Gold had completed scoring the film.
       A Child Is Waiting previewed 6 Dec 1962 at the first annual Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Foundation awards dinner, at the Statler Hilton hotel in Washington, DC, as stated in the 7 Dec 1962 DV. The event was hosted by Adlai Stevenson, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and featured a vocal performance by Judy Garland. Burt Lancaster also attended.
       The 18 Jan 1963 DV announced the picture’s debut the following week in Los Angeles. The New York City opening was delayed until 28 Feb 1963, due to a newspaper strike. Reviews were mixed. While the 9 Jan 1963 DV described the film as “a poignant, provocative, revealing dramatization” of its subject matter, the 24 Jan 1963 LAT found it merely “depressing” and devoid of entertainment value. John Cassavetes later complained to the 1 Mar 1964 LAT that the picture was “mangled in the re-editing,” blaming Stanley Kramer’s penchant for “safe controversy.” The 8 Mar 1963 DV and LAT reported that Kramer received a State Mental Health Award on 6 Mar 1963 from CA Governor Edmond G. “Pat” Brown, who commended the producer for his “outstanding contribution to his fellow citizens of California.” The picture also received an “A-II” rating from the Legion of Decency, as noted in the 18 Jan 1963 DV. Robert Blumhofe of distributor United Artists Corporation (UA) revealed in the 3 May 1964 LAT that the studio lost $2 million on the film.
       The 31 Jan 1963 DV announced A Child Is Waiting as the official U.S. entry in the Mar Del Plata Film Festival in Argentina. The 20 Feb 1963 DV noted that efforts were being made to recruit John Cassavetes for the U.S. delegation to the festival, due to the popularity of his 1961 release, Shadows (see entry). Heading the delegation was actor-director Gene Kelly. Nearly five weeks later, the 25 Mar 1963 DV reported that the film was dismissed by festival judges as “well-meaning but unexciting.” In the 26 Mar 1963 DV, movie journalist Vincent Canby criticized the delegation for not including anyone connected with the picture among its ranks, and failing to promote the screening.
       An article in the 23 Jul 1964 NYT included A Child Is Waiting among the first theatrical films to be broadcast on CA’s pay-television service, Subscription Television, Inc.
       Casting announcements include Billy Mumy (24 Jan 1962 DV); David Fresco, Noam Pitlik, Kelly O’Hara, Tony Maxwell, and David Ocnoff (25 Jan 1962 DV); Moria Turner (15 Mar 1962 DV); and Betty Tesman (5 Apr 1962 DV). The 17 May 1963 LAT mentioned child actor Brian Corcoran as a cast member, and 12 Feb 1962 LAT noted that Burt Lancaster’s daughter, Sighle Lancaster, appeared as the sister of the character “Reuben Widdicombe.” An article in the 27 Oct 1964 DV credited Merrill White as a contributing film editor.
       In the 30 Oct 1961 LAT, columnist Hedda Hopper mentioned a “two-character movie” titled A Child Is Waiting, which was to star Patty Duke and Bradford Dillman. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
13 Mar 1961
p. 6.
Daily Variety
6 Nov 1961
p. 7.
Daily Variety
5 Jan 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
24 Jan 1962
p. 3.
Daily Variety
25 Jan 1962
p. 11.
Daily Variety
2 Feb 1962
p. 12.
Daily Variety
12 Feb 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
19 Feb 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
15 Mar 1962
p. 10.
Daily Variety
5 Apr 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
10 Apr 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
2 Nov 1962
p. 2.
Daily Variety
7 Dec 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
9 Jan 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
18 Jan 1963
p. 1, 2.
Daily Variety
31 Jan 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
20 Feb 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
28 Feb 1963
p. 10.
Daily Variety
8 Mar 1963
p. 3.
Daily Variety
25 Mar 1963
p. 1, 4.
Daily Variety
26 Mar 1963
p. 4.
Daily Variety
27 Oct 1964
p. 36.
Los Angeles Times
16 Oct 1961
Section C, p. 14.
Los Angeles Times
30 Oct 1961
Section C, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
5 Feb 1962
Section C, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times
11 Feb 1962
Section A, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
12 Feb 1962
Section C, 15.
Los Angeles Times
14 Feb 1962
Section C, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
21 Oct 1962
p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
4 Dec 1962
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
24 Jan 1963
Section C, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
1 Mar 1963
Section B, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
8 Mar 1963
p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
17 May 1963
Section C, p. 9.
Los Angeles Times
3 May 1964
Section N, p. 8.
New York Times
19 Feb 1961
p. 123.
New York Times
18 Feb 1962
Section X, p. 9.
New York Times
14 Feb 1963
p. 5.
New York Times
23 Jul 1964
p. 54.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Orig scr, Orig scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
SOUND
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel A Child Is Waiting by Abby Mann (first presented on CBS TV's "Studio One," 11 Mar 1957).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Release Date:
14 January 1963
Premiere Information:
Minneapolis opening: 14 January 1963
Los Angeles opening: late January 1963
New York opening: 28 February 1963
Production Date:
began 22 January 1962
Copyright Claimant:
Larcas Productions
Copyright Date:
1 November 1962
Copyright Number:
LP23686
Duration(in mins):
102
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Dr. Matthew Clark is the head of a state institution for mentally retarded children. Jean Hansen, a former music teacher anxious to give her life some meaning, joins the staff of the hospital. Jean, who tries to shelter the children with her love, suspiciously regards Clark's stern training methods. She becomes emotionally involved with 12-year-old Reuben Widdicombe, who has been abandoned by his divorced parents. Jean defies Clark by sending for the child's parents when Reuben stubbornly refuses to obey orders. Mrs. Widdicombe, however, concurs with the doctor's decision that it would be damaging for the boy to see her. As she leaves, Reuben catches sight of her and chases her departing car; and the incident so emotionally upsets the boy that he runs away from the school. Clark returns him the next morning, whereupon Jean, realizing her mistake, offers to resign. Clark, however, suggests that she remain on and continue her preparations for a Thanksgiving show in which all the children will participate. On the day of the show, Reuben's father arrives to take his son to a private school; but when he hears Reuben haltingly recite a poem and then respond to the audience's applause, he understands his son's desperate need to achieve something for ... +


Dr. Matthew Clark is the head of a state institution for mentally retarded children. Jean Hansen, a former music teacher anxious to give her life some meaning, joins the staff of the hospital. Jean, who tries to shelter the children with her love, suspiciously regards Clark's stern training methods. She becomes emotionally involved with 12-year-old Reuben Widdicombe, who has been abandoned by his divorced parents. Jean defies Clark by sending for the child's parents when Reuben stubbornly refuses to obey orders. Mrs. Widdicombe, however, concurs with the doctor's decision that it would be damaging for the boy to see her. As she leaves, Reuben catches sight of her and chases her departing car; and the incident so emotionally upsets the boy that he runs away from the school. Clark returns him the next morning, whereupon Jean, realizing her mistake, offers to resign. Clark, however, suggests that she remain on and continue her preparations for a Thanksgiving show in which all the children will participate. On the day of the show, Reuben's father arrives to take his son to a private school; but when he hears Reuben haltingly recite a poem and then respond to the audience's applause, he understands his son's desperate need to achieve something for himself. +

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

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