(1936)4Craig ButlerThese Three is a surprisingly powerful adaptation of Lillian Hellman's acclaimed The Children's Hour -- surprisingly, because the Production Code of the time demanded significant changes (deleting the central lesbian element, eliminating the suicide of a major character, etc.) that would seem sure to destroy the piece. It's a credit to both Hellman and director William Wyler that they were able to make these changes and still retain the force and impact of the original. These Three boasts an exceptionally well-made screenplay, one in which all of the pieces fit logically and inevitably without seeming mechanical. Hellman's adaptation also does a marvelous job of opening up the stage play in a way that feels totally natural. And, of course, it features a number of well-written roles that provide its cast with opportunities to shine. Merle Oberon turns in one of her finest performances as Karen Wright; and if Joel McCrea is a trifle restrained, that's in keeping with the character he portrays, Dr. Joseph Cardin. Of the three leads, Miriam Hopkins has the juiciest part as Martha Dobie, and this uniquely talented actress plays it for all it's worth. She's given a run for her money by Bonita Granville's intensely evil Mary, but there's also tremendous supporting work from Marcia Mae Jones and Catherine Doucet. They're all guided by Wyler's smooth and assured direction, which keeps the production always on track and heightens all the important points in the work without overdoing them. All in all, These Three is an impressive and memorable film.