Shirley MacLaine, in the documentary The Celluloid Closet, said that nobody on the set of The Children's Hour discussed the ramifications of the issues regarding homosexuality that are implied, but never spoken about outright, in the film. She said, "none of us were really aware. We might have been forerunners, but we weren't really, because we didn't do the picture right. We were in the mindset of not understanding what we were basically doing. These days, there would be a tremendous outcry, as well there should be. Why would Martha break down and say, 'Oh my god, what's wrong with me, I'm so polluted, I've ruined you.' She would fight! She would fight for her budding preference. And when you look at it, to have Martha play that scene - and no one questioned it - what that meant, or what the alternatives could have been underneath the dialog, it's mind boggling. The profundity of this subject was not in the lexicon of our rehearsal period. Audrey and I never talked about this. Isn't that amazing. Truly amazing." (IMDB)
One can only suppose that if Maclaine were involved in a remake of "Huckleberry Finn", she would re-imagine the 19th century as an era of enlightened, respectful attitudes towards race and lovable colorful ethnically diverse towns and villages. The word "nigger" would never appear. Why indeed does Martha break down and declare that there must be something wrong with her? Because it's the 1950's (or 40's or 30's, when the play was written by Lillian Hellman). Of course Martha would believe there was something wrong with her! That is precisely what was wrong with attitudes towards homosexuality back then. Martha, incubated in a culture of ruthless heterosexual orthodoxy, would have had no choice. It is only in the modern era that homosexuals, knowing that the courts and the larger public are on their side, see a viable path in standing up for their rights, and, indeed, assert a claim on the definition of marriage.
And Maclaine's humanistic declarations aside, it would have been an artistic mistake to incorporate anachronistic attitudes into a play set in the 1930's. The beauty of "The Children's Hour", the film, is it's incisive observations about society and children and young women trying to establish themselves in the 1930's. Incorporating modern attitudes about identity and self-actualization would have only served to allow casual viewers to pat themselves on the back for being on the correct side of this issue.