A Child Is Waiting
February 13, 1963

Judy Garland plays Jean Hansen, a drop out from the Juilliard School of Music, who is "searching for something to give meaning to life" in this touching film about children with cognitive disabilities. Dr.  Matthew Clark  (Burt Lancaster), the psychiatrist in charge of the Crawthorn State facility for children, hires Jean to teach at $50 a week plus board.  Jean quickly forms a special bond with a boy named Reuben Widdicombe (Bruce Ritchey). Using flashback scenes, Director John Cassavetes focusses on Reuben's difficulties from infancy, and the emotional pain felt by his parents as they come to terms with their son's cognitive disabilities and society's prejudices towards such children. Except for Reuben, all the children in the film were actual patients of the Pacific State Hospital in Pamone, California.

Eventually Reuben's parents divorce, and their visits to see their son at Crawthorn become more infrequent. Jean feels a visit to the facility by Reuben's parents after a two year lapse will   help Reuben break free of his isolation. Dr. Clark rejects Jean's request but she goes ahead and invites Reuben's mother under the pretence that Reuben is ill. However when Sophie Widdicombe (Gena Rowlands) arrives at the school, Jean learns that the mother cannot bear to see her son because "she loves him too much." Sophie flees without talking to her son, and Dr. Clark admonishes Jean, but gives her another chance.  Fortunately Jean has more success in teaching the children a musical skit. On the day of the performance, Ted Widdicombe (Steven Hill) shows up at Crawthorn, and is deeply moved when Reuben participates.

This 106-minute black and white movie captures the circumstances of mentally challenged children in the early sixties. When administrators come to visit and inspect Crawthorn, Dr. Matthew Clark's makes a passionate plea  for more financial assistance for such children.   A Child Is Waiting was filmed  from January 1962 to April 1962, but released only in early 1963. Although the film was not a box office success for producer Stanley Kramer, critics offered praise for a story told "with courageous candor and dramatic simplicity." (New York Times)


Copyright: Peter Fokes (2003)
Back to From Toronto With Love