“The Quiet One” is a 1948 docu-drama (part doc, part scripted) by Sidney Meyers that chronicles the rehabilitation of a lonely, emotionally-scarred African American boy, following his father’s death and his mother’s abandonment, growing up in Harlem, NY, and the efforts by the people of the Wiltwyck School for Boys – an institution for children from broken homes or juvenile delinquents – to help rehabilitate him.
It’s a powerful documentary-style (though scripted) account, offering a provocative glimpse at the Wiltwyck School for Boys in the 1940s – a walk through vintage American education, which, interestingly, despite the central subject, never actually raises the issue of race. The poor child is completely misunderstood and neglected. But against all despair, he finds hope.
It’s simple, yet touching.
Donald Thompson plays the 10-year-old boy, whose name in the film is Donald Peters.
The film was nominated for the Best Screenplay Academy Award, as well as Best Documentary, and also the National Board of Review named it a top 5 film of 1949. It just may be the only feature film nominated for Best Screenplay as well as Best Documentary by the Academy.
It’s a film that’s been screened typically at institutions like museums, over the years, and is in the public domain. And thanks to YouTube, you can get intimately acquainted with it, 68 long years later.
The complete 64-minute film is embedded below: