A Child is Waiting

The location for John Cassavetes's second dalliance with studio production is the Pacific State Hospital, here dubbed the Crowthorn Training School, an institute for challenged children. The wards of the real institute are everywhere to be seen, not just as set decoration, but as poignant bit players in a hard-hitting drama about the social reforms needed to care for adolescents with special needs. Burt Lancaster plays Dr. Clark, a headstrong psychologist who has initiated a progressive program to redeem his charges. With an unnerved presence, Judy Garland takes the role of Jean, a music instructor who has come to Crowthorn hoping to redeem her own aimless life. Once there, she develops an intense affection for Reuben (remarkably played by Bruce Ritchey, the film's only child actor), a twelve-year-old abandoned by his parents (Gena Rowland and Steven Hill). A Child is Waiting is pure Cassavetes: he has embedded two polished performers in a context that strips them of their grandiosity. The kids steal the show, because the pro actors have relinquished their own special needs.

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