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.
Where the earlier film idealized Hilton’s already sentimental portrait of life at a traditional English boys’ prep school, this version is more faithful to the book and to the real world.
Still a celebration of Brookfield’s heritage and dedication to old-fashioned values and classical education, this film shows Chipping’s struggles with the less attractive side of traditional boarding-school life — bullying, class-based snobbery, “fagging” (forcing younger pupils to wait on older ones).
Chipping’s transition from an inexperienced newcomer who easily loses control of a classroom to an authoritative master is better developed here. We see the slow stages and small victories by which he wins the students’ respect and grows in confidence, and specifically how Mrs. Chipping, when she arrives, impacts his professional and personal life. The difficulties posed by modernizing trends and pressures, coupled with unsympathetic administrators, also get more attention.
Martin Clunes’s Chipping has virtually nothing in common with that of the first film — nor does his courtship of Kathy. His story is still endearing, though, and a warm-hearted tribute to dedicated teachers.
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.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.