So why, at the last minute, has CBS announced it’s pulling a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, “Hear My Song,” that was scheduled to air this Saturday?
The movie is an inspiring story starring Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Eddie Izzard, Kevin McHale and Debra Winger. Both Hoffman and Bates have won Academy Awards.
According to IMDb, here’s a short synopsis of “Hear My Song”: “Stet, a troubled and angry 11-year-old orphan from a small Texas town, ends up at a Boy Choir school back East after the death of his single mom. Completely out of his element, he finds himself in a battle of wills with a demanding Choir Master who recognizes a unique talent in this young boy as he pushes him to discover his creative heart and soul in music.”
Thinking it odd that CBS didn’t give a reason for pulling the film, TVWeek contacted Hallmark.
It turns out the movie was pulled because of what it is not about.
We were given this statement by Hallmark Cards: “‘Hear My Song’ is a fictional story about a troubled but talented boy who overcomes great odds to find success. While the movie and actors were not intended to depict any particular individual, organization or institution, 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. After careful consideration, it was decided that the movie will not air on CBS, Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.”
We went back to CBS after receiving the Hallmark statement and were told that the network declines to comment on Hallmark’s pulling of the film.
CBS had previously issued a brief statement yesterday, noting only that it was replacing the scheduled airing Saturday of “Hear My Song” with repeats of “NCIS: New Orleans” and “Criminal Minds,” as we reported Tuesday.
So what’s going on?
This Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation was actually an acquisition, by Hallmark, of a movie that came out in 2014 under another name. Its original title was “Boychoir,” and at least one concern about the movie was voiced at that time.
In November 2014, an article appeared on Salon.com under the headline “My husband was abused as a choir boy: Why doesn’t ‘Boychoir’ tell his story?” In that article, Shonna Milliken Humphrey writes about the impact of her husband’s experiences at New Jersey’s American Boychoir School when he was 11 to 13 years old.
Although the filmmakers avoided direct references to any real-life school, Humphrey writes that the New Jersey school “is the inspiration for the eponymous film,” and adds: “The American Boychoir School provided its students as actors, as well as musical direction and accompaniment for the movie.”
Humphrey also writes: “As late as the 1990s, the school also [allegedly] provided a well-documented spot where little boys were regularly and repeatedly sexually violated by teachers, administrators and other students. I’d wager the school is still addressing these allegations.”
Sexual abuse allegations against the school were the subject of a lawsuit back in 2002. On April 16, 2002, The New York Times published an article titled, “Years of Sex Abuse Described at Choir School in New Jersey.”
Here is how that long, investigative piece begins:
“In its 65 years, the American Boychoir School has created one of the nation’s best-known choirs, with its sweet-voiced students, all fifth-graders through eighth-graders, invited to sing for presidents and at least one pope.
“But in a series of interviews in the last two months, a dozen alumni from the 1960s to the 1980s described a pattern of sex abuse at the nonsectarian boarding school by two longtime choirmasters and by nine other staff members, from a headmaster to teachers’ aides to a cook, that they say has resonated through their lives.”
In her Salon.com article, Humphrey notes her husband’s response to hearing that a movie had been made about the school: “’They made a movie?’ he asked when he learned about ‘Boychoir.’ His voice got angrier. ‘What’s next? “Penn State, the musical”?’”
She also notes that the issue of sexual abuse is not raised in the movie.
Here’s a trailer that was posted more than a year ago for “Boychoir” …