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Monday, March 7, 2011

Goodbye Mr. Chips (1939)

A retired school teacher (Robert Donat), in his 80s, at an English boys school reflects back on his first day as a new teacher at the school and his life from that point on. Directed by Sam Wood and based on the James Hilton novel, this is perhaps the definitive "teacher that inspired me" movie that spawned the likes of TO SIR WITH LOVE and their ilk. Wood and the three contributing screenwriters squeeze the tear ducts for all the tears they can get and damn if they don't succeed. The film is genuinely touching, if overly sentimental, and there's a sincere respect for the teaching profession. Donat won the Oscar for best actor for his performance here and it's a widely admired performance but I found his performance problematic. He overdoes the old and aging Chips in a way that so many younger actors do when playing much older than their actual years. But he's wonderful as the younger Chips as is Greer Garson playing the love of his life. She's a delight and you can see why MGM spirited her away to Hollywood. There's a solid score by Richard Addinsell. The cast includes Paul Henreid, John Mills, Martita Hunt and Judith Furse (Sister Briony in BLACK NARCISSUS).

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