The Quiet One by Meyers, Sidney
The Quiet One by director Sidney Meyers tells the story of a Harlem youth who grows up feeling rejected and withdrawn, eventually drifting into delinquency. At the Wiltwyck School for Boys, he becomes a "quiet one," building a wall of silence around himself to hide the bitterness.
'The Quiet One' won awards at the Venice and Edinburgh Film Festivals and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Acadamy Awards (1949).
The true nature of The Quiet One as a documentary has been disputed. The film shows in documentary 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. Though the film's dialogue sounds spontaneous, it was pre-scripted by critic James Agee, who also narrates the film.
Of particular interest to modern viewers is the fact that Donald Thompson is black. Remember, in those days the United States of America was a racially segregated country. Unlike other "socially conscious" films of the late 1940s, The Quiet One does not make Donald's race an issue in the proceedings; he is simply a disturbed young boy in need of sympathetic treatment. In 1949 "The quiet One" was regarded as an important social film providing a documentary-style look at deliquency.