Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat) and one of his charges
GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (1939). Director: Sam Wood.

Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat), affectionately known as "Chips," becomes teacher at a boys' school and after a few missteps with the unruly youngsters wins them over and becomes a beloved figure. At 83 and retired, he looks back over his life: his first awkward days at the school; meeting his beautiful wife, Katherine (Greer Garson), while on holiday; being turned down for headmaster; his own family tragedy; and his anguish at the deaths of so many of his students during WW1. Although Donat [The Winslow Boy] is a bit too caricatured as an man in his eighties, he gives a very good and sensitive performance, and is matched in quality by Garson [Madame Curie] as his loving and intelligent wife who helps guide him in his choices. There is such a talented bunch of young actors in this -- Terry Kilburn plays various generations of a boy named Colley (with John Mills as Colley as a young man) -- each of whom is a thorough professional. Billed as "Paul Von Hernried," Paul Henreid [Between Two Worlds] is also fine as the German teacher who befriends Chips and helps bring him out of his shell. This is also based on a novel by James Hilton, but I find it vastly superior to Lost Horizon. Although some aspects of the story may be a bit improbable (since when do little boys have such respect for elderly men?), this is a warmly sentimental and absorbing, well-made drama. One of the most moving scenes has Chips reading the names of many of the boys who have been killed in action. Goodbye, Mr. Chips won four academy awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Direction, and Best Picture.

Verdict: Lovely old movie. ***1/2.


angelman66 said...

Interesting, this is also a James Hilton story? I need to go back and read these.

Again, this is one I have never seen either; I think as a kid who used to memorize the Oscar winners and nominees, I was perturbed that British actor Robert Donat won the best actor Oscar away from All-American Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. And Donat (and Ronald Colman in the previous films covered here) was another Brit who was not as glamorous and prolific as other male stars of the era. And the leading ladies in both Goodbye Mr. Chips and Lost Horizon were not the iconic female stars I obsessively read about, either.

But I have grown out of those prejudices now and am ready to see this film!

William said...

I think you will like it, although I guess it's not for every taste. It's one of those that takes a while to grip you, but it eventually does.

Donat was a fine actor who never quite became "legendary" in this country despite his Oscar.