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The story of a lonely young boy growing up in Harlem. Using a semi-documentary technique, the film-makers realistically capture the hostile environment which leads the boy to delinquency. The youth is sent to Wiltwyck School for rehabilitation, where a psychiatrist and counselor try to break through the wall of silence which the boy uses to hide his fear and bitterness. The Quiet One relates, in semidocumentary fashion, the inner workings of the Wiltwyck School for Boys at Esopus, New York. The nonprofessional cast is headed by Donald Thompson as emotionally disturbed
youth Donald Peters. Under the compassionate ministrations of a psychiatric
counselor (Clarence Cooper, a real-life Wiltwyck counselor), Donald recalls
the various traumatic events that have led up to his present troubled state.
Out of the tortured experiences of a 10-year-old Harlem Negro boy, cruelly
rejected by his loved ones but rescued by the people of the Wiltwyck School,
a new group of local film-makers has fashioned a genuine masterpiece in the
way of a documentary drama. In several respects this hour-long picture,
shaped from the stuff of modern life, is comparable to those stark film
dramas which we have had from Italy since the war. For not only does its
poignant story mirror a contempora scene, but it is performed by a cast of "picked-up" actors, with an untrained lad in the principal role. Also, it was filmed entirely on the concrete streets of New York, in sleazy Harlem apartments and at the Wiltwyck School for Boys at Esopus, N. Y. More than that—and most especially—it views with a clear and candid eye in searching about for the torment of a so-called delinquent child. It illustrates the problem with compassion but utter clarity. And it comes to an honest conclusion, which is far from a "happy end." In a sense, it might be reckoned the "Shoe Shine" of American urban life, with the fade-out less fatal and tragic because of our more fortunate state. Briefly, "The Quiet One" tells the story of a boy whose childhood has been scarred by the brutal indifference of his parents and the disgust of the grandmother with whom he lives. Abused, rebuffed, rejected, he has lost all confidence and heart and, in his lonesome shame and anguish, he turns wildly and darkly into himself. Out of this empty "quiet" region he is slowly and painfully drawn by the care and understanding of the psychiatrist and a counselor at the Wiltwyck School. If that sounds like propaganda, let us hasten to assure that no cause is pleaded in this picture, other than that of affection and guidance for the young. The fact that one school was selected as the refuge for this
particular child was plainly a matter of convenience. For this is essentially the story of any child who has hungered for love and, in the misery of that hunger, has rebelled in some unsocial way. It is also a clear illumination of the psychology of such a child and of the delicate handling and patience required to help him find some heart and strength.
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