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UK/USA 1939
Directed by
Sam Woods
109 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939)

This adaptation of James Hilton’s serialized novel, produced at MGM's British studio under the guiding hand of Victor Saville, is so dripping in sentimentality that it is surprising that the screen doesn’t sag under its sodden weight. The story, told in a flashback, was based upon Hilton's own experiences at a public school in Cambridge and for authenticity's sake, was filmed at the Repton School with students and faculty serving as extras in the cast.

Released the same year as Gone With The Wind and Wuthering Heights, the film has entered the pantheon of Hollywood classics, but it is one that has dated ideologically. The romanticized celebration of traditional values and dutiful compliance with and self-sacrifice to the established order was timely on the eve of WWII but today one can’t get past the impression that Chips is a doddering old dullard who has spent almost 60 years inculcating generation after generation of upper class boys with hoary irrelevancies (for which his reward in the film is a biscuit jar and a contented demise!!). In this respect it would be interesting to compare the film to Dead Poets Society (1989 with its more modern take on the relationship between education and indoctrination.

Robert Donat won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1939 (his sole Oscar win) for his convincing portrayal of the diffident old fuddy-duddy whilst Greer Garson, making her film debut, plays his devoted and improbably beautiful wife.

FYI: Somewhat incongrously, the film was remade in a musical version in 1969 with Peter O'Toole in the lead.




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