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Film Review: A Child Is Waiting


A Child Is Waiting

United Artists, 1963 (BW, 104 minutes)

Jean Hansen is wanting to find some meaning in her life, so she applies for the position of music teacher at a state institution for mentally retarded children. Once hired, she finds herself on Dr. Clark's staff, though she is not enthusiastic about his methods. She becomes emotionally involved with one of the children, a borderline case (Reuben Widdicombe).

When Reuben stubbornly refuses to follow orders, Jean defies Clark by sending for Reuben's parents. Mrs. Widdicombe (Gena Rowlands) agrees with the doctor and decides not to see the boy. But as she is leaving the institution Reuben catches sight of her and chases her departing car. Emotionally upset about the incident, the boy runs away. When he is returned to the school the next morning, Jean, realizing her mistake, offers to resign.

Clark suggests that she remain on and continue her preparations for a Thanksgiving show in which all the children will perform. On the day of the show Reuben's father (Steven Hill) comes to transfer his son to a private school. When he hears Reuben haltingly recite a poem and then respond to the audience's applause, he better understands his son's desperate need to achieve something for himself.


Produced by: Stanley Kramer
Associate Producer: Philip Langner
Directed by: John Cassavetes
Assistant Director: Douglas Green, Lindsey Parsons
Associate Producer: Philip Langner
Screenplay by: Abby Mann, Based upon his story
Music: Ernest Gold
Production Design: Rudolph Sternad
Art Direction: Rudolph Sternad
Set decoration: Joseph Kish
Miss Garland's Wardrobe by: Howard Shoup
Make Up: George Lane
Hair Stylist: Al Paul
Song "Snowflakes" by: Marjorie D. Kurtz
Poem "The Mist & I" by: Dixie Wilson
Technical Assistance provide by Stat of California Department of Mental Hygiene and Pacific State Hospital
Sound Engineer: James Speak
Director of Photography: Joseph La Shelle
Film Editors: Gene Fowler, Jr.; Robert C. Jones

Filmed: January 1962 - April 1962 (Judy was 39 years old)
Released: January 1963


Burt Lancaster ... Dr. Ben Clark
Judy Garland ... Jean Hansen
Gena Rowlands ... Sophie Widdicombe
Steven Hill ... Ted Widdicombe
Paul Stewart ... Goodman
Gloria McGehee ... Mattie
Lawrence Tierney ... Douglas Benham
Bruce Ritchey ... Reuben Widdicombe
John Marley ... Holland
Billy Mumy ... Boy
Elizabeth Wilson ... Miss Fogarty
Frederick Draper ... Dr. Sack
and The Children
Additional Cast:
Barbara Pepper ... Miss Brown
Marlo Gallo ... Dr. Lombardi
June Walker ... Mrs. McDonald

Musical Program

Snowflakes (sung by Judy Garland and the children)


With the exception of Bruce Ritchey, all of the children in the film were mentally retarded patients of the Pacific State Hospital in Pamona, California.

Due to the strong theme of the film, it was not a box office success, though critics generally praised the movie and the actors.

See Judy Garland Movies on Video for information about the latest releases of home video and sountrack.

Critical Response

"Some painful but compelling instruction on how to adjust emotionally to the sometimes calamitous problem of the mentally retarded child is conveyed with courageous candor and dramatic simplicity."

- The New York Times

"Wonderful...is the way Judy Garland and Burt Lancaster work along with the children. Miss Garland and Lancaster radiate a warmth so genuine that one is certain that the children are responding directly to them, not merely following some vaguely comprehended script."

- Saturday Review

"Miss Garland's misty-eyed compassion and Mr. Lancaster's crisp authority...are of a standard dramatic order."

- Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, February 14, 1963]

A Child Is Waiting VHS

A Child Is Waiting Poster Art
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Judy and Burt Lancaster

Gena Rowlands and Judy Garland

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