For Reel

These Three (1936)
July 24, 2012, 5:40 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William Wyler

William Wyler’s These Three was the first adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, a play about the headmistresses of an all-girl boarding school being labeled lesbians by a bitter student. This being 1936, the picture is unsurprisingly heterosexual, with Hellman herself adapting the story to better suit the standards of the Production Code. Director William Wyler, not yet the commodity that he would be in the late thirties and into the sixties, began his collaboration with producer Samuel Goldwyn on the project, which became a partnership that would last nine films (including several of Wyler’s most beloved: The Best Years of Our Lives, The Little Foxes). Miriam Hopkins and Merle Oberon were cast along with Joel McCrea, much to the chagrin of Wyler, who had asked for Leslie Howard. Talented as the two women were, it was the Oscar-nominated thirteen-year-old Bonita Granville who stole the bulk of the acclaim with her captivating performance as the brat whose false accusation of an affair ruins the reputations of the headmistresses. Her scenes with fellow child actress Marcia Mae Jones are surprisingly intense, with her threatening manipulations containing a believable menace. Wyler was often touted as a perfectionist, and though his best work was to come, the picture shows touches of his brilliance – in the scene in which Hopkins confesses her love for Oberon’s husband-to-be, for example, Wyler shoots Hopkins from over-the-shoulder on a staircase, moving the audience’s focus exclusively to Oberon’s reaction rather than the confession itself.

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