When I saw an advance screener of "Hear My Song" last week, I had mixed feelings. The music was magnificent; so was the direction by Francois Girard. The story, however, was often preposterous.
Still, I couldn't have guessed what would happen next: CBS and "Hallmark Hall of Fame" pulled the film, replacing it with reruns. I could grumble about the poor job they did of getting this information to reporters and viewers. More interesting, however, are the reasons behind the move. Here's the story I sent to papers Monday morning:
By Mike Hughes
forces, CBS and “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” left TV viewers
That was when the
movie “Hear My Song” was replaced by reruns. The reason involved
accusations of sex-abuse at the American Boychoir School, decades
None of that was
covered in the film, a fictional tale of a hard-scrabble kid who was
transformed by music. “Song” was directed by Francois Girard –
an art-film favorite since the 1993 “Thirty Two Short Films About
Glenn Gould” -- and co-starred Oscar-winners Dustin Hoffman and
But it revived anger
from people who had seen officials try to duck responsibility for the
abuse. The school settled some cases (one for $850,000), filed for
Chapter 11 protection and moved twice.
Created in 1937 in
Columbus, Ohio, the school (Grades 4-8) had thrived near Princeton.
Its choirs sang for several presidents and Pope Paul VI and backed
Beyonce at the Academy Awards.
In 2002, however,
the New York Times wrote: “A dozen alumni from the 1960's to the
1980's described a pattern of sex abuse ... by two longtime
choirmasters and nine other staff members.”
resigned and the school tried to have the blame confined to its
employees or to the boys, for not reporting it. Eventually, it sold
its campus and moved twice, now to Hopewell, N.J.
All of this is
unfamiliar turf for “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” which tends to be
It began in 1951 by
commissioning the now-classic mini-opera “Amahl and the Night
Visitors” (which, ironically, starred an American Boychoir
student). Then came Shakespearean plays and a switch to original
movies. Hallmark has said the 1986 “The Promise” is “the
most-honored dramatic special in television history,” with Emmys
and Golden Globes, plus a Peapody, a Humanitas and a Christopher.
There have been
three and four films a year, usually pointed to a greeting-card time;
“Hear My Song” -- three weeks before Mother's Day – stood out
for “Hall of Fame” as:
-- A return to a
broadcast network, after some years of being confined to the Hallmark
-- A film not
produced by Hallmark. Originally called “Boychoir,” it had a
brief movie run in 2014; Hallmark bought it and dubbed it “Hear My
Song,” which is also the title of a 1991 film.
Then the backlash
began. Although the school in the film is fictional, it was patterned
after American Boychoir School; some of Boychoir's students are in
the cast and its choir provides the soundtrack. “Song” was shown
at the school, to launch a fundraising campaign.
Last week – too
late for TV magazines and many daily papers – the film was pulled.
“Hallmark was recently made aware of serious allegations of
misconduct made many years ago at a school similar to the one
depicted in the movie,” an announcement said. “After careful
consideration, it was decided that the movie will not air on CBS,
Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.”
The school responded
with its own press release: “Our students and their designated
faculty and staff are being unjustly punished for events that
happened long ago and do not reflect our school today. Our boys ...
are justifiably proud of their work on this movie and our community
shares that pride.”