Catching up with Cassavetes: #3 – “A Child is Waiting” (1963)

a-child-is-waiting.jpg_22202_1500_1500_2Prior to watching John CassavetesA Child is Waiting I couldn’t figure out why I haven’t heard too much, if any, mention of it before, especially when considering its two big name stars; Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster. Well, as it turns out there’s a good reason why. Aside from the fact that Cassavetes himself disowned it after he was fired during the post production phase, the fact of the matter is, the film just isn’t all that good, especially when being compared to the rest of his films.

This is a melodrama that takes place in a school for children with special needs, or as the film’s 1960s politically correct term at the time puts it, a school for retarded children. Judy Garland, looking somewhat more spaced out and confused than her role actually calls for, plays Ms. Hansen, a mid-30s naive woman who takes a job as teacher of the retards (again, the film’s words, not mine). There, aside from meeting a bunch of retards and learning her purpose in their lives, she develops a rapport with the school’s principal played by Burt Lancaster, who, believe it or not, is the same Burt Lancaster who just one year prior gave a stellar Oscar-nominated performance in Birdman of Alcatraz. I say believe it or not, because here he acts with all the charisma of a cardboard box.

Thankfully, writer Abby Mann had the good sense to keep the focus of the story on the kids in the school and their relationship with the teachers rather than write in a romantic subplot, which I was sure was where the story was heading. That, along with the film’s opening title sequence, and the natural performances from the cast of non-professional children, were the only redeemable qualities I could find in an otherwise, how could I put it, crapfest.

When I wasn’t choking in the disgustingly manipulative non-stop bombastic score, or being preached to on the importance of institutionalizing society’s ugly ducklings – which was the opposing statement to what Cassavetes had in mind, which was to expose the ridiculous way in which adults overreacted, isolated, and coddled these children – I was just flat out bored.

Up next: Cassavetes says goodbye to Hollywood funding and hello to Faces.


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Categories: Director Spotlight, Reviews


  1. Catching up with Cassavetes: #8 – “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” (1976) | - November 28, 2014

    […] up with Cassavetes: #2 – “Too Late Blues” (1961) Catching up with Cassavetes: #3 – “A Child is Waiting” (1963) Catching up with Cassavetes: #4 – “Faces” (1968) Catching up with Cassavetes: #5 – […]

  2. Catching up with Cassavetes: #10 – “Gloria” (1980) | - December 16, 2014

    […] Catching up with Cassavetes: #2 – “Too Late Blues” (1961) Catching up with Cassavetes: #3 – “A Child is Waiting” (1963) Catching up with Cassavetes: #4 – “Faces” (1968) Catching up with Cassavetes: #5 […]

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