Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: These Three (1936)

I watched this excellent film a few days ago and I thought it was one of the best films I've ever seen. Based on the Lillian Hellman play, The Children's Hour, the main storyline has been changed from lesbianism to a heterosexual triangle involving two women and a man. But the film still remains a solid dramatic effort. The film casts Miriam Hopkins as Martha and Merle Oberon as Karen, college roommates, who graduate and face the future with no place and no money.

Karen, however, has inherited a farmhouse from her grandmother, and gets the idea that she and Martha can turn it into a school for girls. They travel to the farmhouse, which turns out to be quite rundown, and all hope seems lost, until they meet Dr. Joe Cardin (played by Joe Cardin), who tells them not to give up, to take out a loan, fix up the farmhouse, and it will work out. And before you know it, the school is open and full of young girls. And Karen starts falling in love with Joe. Even though Martha longs for the good doc herself. All seems to go according to plan, until one student devises a scheme for revenge for being punished by the teachers. The student is Mary Tildford (played by Bonita Granville) as the child from hell. Her lie about an affair between Karen and Joe spreads quickly and all over town. And before you know it the parents quickly remove their kids from the school without an explanation to the titular three. Well Joe decides he wants answers and goes to Mary's grandmother's house to get some. Mary's grandmother is played by the wonderful Alma Kruger. Once there the story comes out to the three young people, they can't believe that this has happened. There is a trial and the whole town is against our three young individuals. After the trial Karen decides it's best if Joe leaves as she is preparing to close down the school. Flash forward a few months later and the truth finally comes out that Mary made the whole thing up and even bullied her classmate Rosalie (a superb Marcie Mae Jones) to corroborate her story. But the damage has been done, that has ruined the lives of three people. Martha finds out and is relieved but still saddened. Karen goes looking for Joe, who is living abroad and they end up together finally.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film from beginning to end. I thought all the actors involved gave very strong performances beginning with Hopkins who had the most delicate of the lead roles and she delivered it superbly. Hopkins shows that she can act when the need arises. Oberon was good also, but got kind of overshadowed by Hopkins in some scenes. It's not her fault, it's just that Martha is the juicier of the two roles. McCrea is his typical strong leading man self. Granville is truly monstrous as the child brat who is just teeming with hatred and deceit. But she finally gets what coming to her when her playhouse comes falling apart and gets one of the all time best film slaps in the face ever. And guess who delivers it.. none other than Margaret Hamilton, the wicked witch of the west, from The Wizard Of Oz. Hamilton plays the maid for Mrs. Tilford. And I cheered when she gave that slap to Granville. I was like finally someone steps up to give that girl what she truly deserved. These Three was expertly directed by the great William Wyler, who would also direct the remake, The Children's Hour (1962) with Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine. I haven't seen that version but I doubt it can be any better than this classic. This is what you get when you get all the stars aligned with great performances, solid direction, and that old Hollywood magic. These Three is a must see.


  1. Awesome!! Review Monty, I agree.. this is a very compelling film. Joel McCrea was wonderful in his sympathetic role. He and Merle Oberon are believable as the young lovers. Miriam Hopkins plays a difficult role and she performs it perfectly. Bonita Granville fully deserved her Oscar nomination as the monstrous girl, who's performance you will never forget.

    I have seen "The Children's Hour (1962)". I think you maybe surprised how wonderful that movie also is..

  2. Both versions are good, but the first is much better. Even with the same director and Miriam Hopkins again! I think the child actors are better in the original. ooh! Bonita Granville could play rotten well.

  3. Monty this is an essential. As you know from my Bonita Granville piece on my blog, I think Granville is shockingly perfect as the little girl who destroys the lives of Hopkins,McCrea, and Oberon. Plus, Joel McCrea was one of those overlooked multi-talented actors. Yes, he did a lot of great westerns and a number of comedies. But his performance in this film shows he could do drama with the best of them!

  4. Great feedback on this wonderful movie.


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