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An old classics teacher looks back over his long career, remembering pupils and colleagues, and above all the idyllic courtship and marriage that transformed his life. Written by
David Levene <D.S.Levene@durham.ac.uk>
"Lux Radio Theatre" broadcast a radio adaptation of the film on November 20, 1939 with Laurence Olivier as Mr. Chips. See more »
Miss Kathy tells Chips that the ballroom in Vienna is where Metternich drew up "the treaty of the five kings" (referring to the Congress of Vienna in 1814 ending the Napoleonic Wars) "nearly 100 years ago." But the montage after Kathy's death makes clear she died before the Boer War (1899) and Queen Victoria's funeral (1901). 100 years after the Congress of Vienna was 1914, the start of World War I when Chips becomes acting headmaster and Kathy is spoken of as having died long ago. See more »
[on his first day at Brookfield School, Mr. Chipping is attempting to bring his unruly class under his control]
Mr. Chipping 'Mr. Chips':
Silence! Silence! I'll have no more of it!
No more silence, sir?
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Excellent, Oscar worthy performance by Robert Donat
Director Sam Woods (`Kitty Foyle: The Natural History of a Woman,' `King's Row,' `For Whom the Bell Tolls') 1939 film `Goodbye Mr. Chips' features a top-notch performance by Robert Donat as the somewhat stuffy English prep school teacher, Mr. Chippings. Chippings early career difficulties are overcome, as is his shyness after he meets Greer Garson (`Mrs. Miniver') in the Alps while on holiday. Garson is able to show the stodgy Chips how to live life and her effect on him lasts throughout the rest of his life, although Garson is not around for long.
The film uses recurring patterns to show the passage of time, namely the showing of the boys arriving at the school each year in the autumn. These segments often contained little historical snippets between the boys, such as `we now have telephones, do you know how to use one?' and mention of Queen Victoria's death and the remark that `it is going to be strange to have a King.' Other historical comments occurred between the teachers such as the remark on a book by a new author, H.G. Wells and how he will never last because his writing is too fantastic. Sadly, Chip's historical error occurs when he comments to the boys that they will not have to go off to World War I as the war cannot possibly last more than a few weeks. So many of the teachers and students end up losing their lives in the Great War. Some other scenes from this film have been parodied through the years in comedies, most noticeably the scenes in the great hall when the headmasters are speaking to the boys is sent up hilariously by John Cleese in `Monty Python's the Meaning of Life' and the scene where Chips canes an insolent student (it is filmed as a shadow against the wall) is later parodied when a punisher is reprimanded for whipping the shadow, not the victim (my memory is failing me here, but I think this is in 1969s `Take the Money and Run' by Woody Allen, I could be wrong as a part of me also thinks that this could be in Mel Brooks' `Blazing Saddles.')
Donat aptly handles the complex role of Chips through the years, from about his mid-20s until his 80s. This may be one of the earlier movies that so aptly chronicles the life and times of a person through such an expanse of years, Dustin Hoffman in `Little Big Man' also performs n this manner, as does Al Pacino in `The Godfather Trilogy,' albeit over the length of three long movies. Even more outstanding and interesting about Donat and his character is that he covers so much of a common man's existence; Chips is a teacher, not a King, general, messiah or Mafia chieftain.
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