Goodbye, Mr. Chips is the original inspirational-teacher story, and a beloved valentine to classical education, tradition, and the English public boarding schools of a bygone era.
Based on James Hilton’s novella, the film is essentially a character study spanning sixty years of a man’s life. Its chief asset is Robert Donat’s celebrated, Oscar-winning performance as Charles Chipping, a bookish classics professor who makes an inauspicious debut at the hallowed halls of Brookfield School for Boys but eventually finds his feet, ultimately becoming something of an institution at the school.
Donat not only ages convincingly from young adulthood into doddering old age, he persuasively synthesizes the various stages of the character’s life, from diffident, humorless newcomer to endearingly eccentric absent-minded professor, into a well-integrated total portrait. Greer Garson, making her feature-film debut, is delightful as Katherine Bridges, the self-possessed young woman who makes a new man of Chipping and gives him a new name, Mr. Chips, to boot.
If the film has a fault, it’s the relative lack of conflict in its leisurely running time as it follows its protagonist through love and tragedy, generations of schoolboys, war, changes at the school, old age and retirement, and crowning recognition. As a celebration of the impact a dedicated teacher can have, though, this sentimental classic deserves its reputation.
Not a remake of the 1939 classic but a new adaptation of James Hilton’s sentimental novella, Masterpiece Theater’s engrossing Goodbye Mr. Chips couldn’t be more different from the 1939 film — and that’s all to the good.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.