It is London in the year 1960 and John Saunders enthusiastically begins his new teaching career at a tough slum-area school. His class are bored pupils in their last term before leaving. Will he handle the grave problems that lie ahead?
John Saunders is a teacher, just out of training college, who takes over a class of badly behaved children in an inner city school. The general rule amongst the other teachers is to enforce discipline with the cane, but Saunders has other ideas, but he has to fight against another teacher, who has a vicious streak. Written by
In his auto-biography, Max Bygraves considered this to be the film he was most proud of and was pleased with the praise given to his performance. See more »
Whispering to her friend, Margaret in class and stealing glances at Mister.Saunders who Margaret has a crush on."I reckon those specs makes him look like Gregory.Peck.Don't you Marge?"
Yeah, he does a bit, he looks real posh with them on.
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"Blest Are the Pure in Heart"
Music by Johann Konig
Music adapted by W.H. Havergal
Words by John Keble See more »
It may just be that Max Bygraves wasn't particularly interested in acting, because he was otherwise an extremely successful all-round performer. He could sing, dance and tell jokes as well as funny stories. His friendly, cheerful and inoffensive personality won him his own show and innumerable guest appearances in top-bill variety such as the London Palladium. For a few years during the 1960's and 70's he was something of a staple in television light entertainment. Then he seemed th fade very quickly.
'Spare The Rod' was one of his few starring roles in a feature film. In it he played the part of a young teacher with what was then called a 'progressive' outlook on teaching. As the title implied, he didn't approve of corporal punishment. We see him in his first post at what was also then called a 'secondary modern' school, meaning a school for kids who had failed their 11+ exam and were effectively written-off any academic aspiration. They were destined to be the also-rans of society. Mostly they would find jobs as apprentices, labourers and 'assistants'.
He is surrounded by teachers who have long experience of 'traditional' teaching methods. For them, caning is an integral part of education. It's necessary for discipline. And it didn't do them any harm. They scorn his liberal attitudes. The kids themselves are used to rough treatment. They've come up through the rough-and-tumble of working-class experience. Which, in those days, was tough. Parental beatings were likely to be far more severe than anything handed down by 'sir'. They slept several to a bed in unheated homes. Often they had lice, fleas, diseases and malnutrition.
His liberal attitude causes confusion amongst the kids. They don't know if it's a strength or a weakness. Eventually his convictions are tested, and in a moment of crisis he strikes one of them. As the confusion deepens it is decided to get rid of him and the kids respond with a riot.
It's actually quite a good movie. Bygraves is perfectly cast in the role. He dresses and genuinely 'looks' like a teacher. And he brings a honest credibility to the part. As a comparison with the similar 'To Sir, With Love', he is much more believable as an ordinary guy trying to break the teaching mould for good reason. Although lacking Sidney Poitier's evident charisma, he is much more plausible in the role.
I can't find it listed on VHS or DVD anywhere, but if you get the chance it's well worth a whizz if only as a reminder of what teaching was like before the swinging 60's kicked-in. Bygraves was a much more capable actor than he was allowed, or perhaps believed himself, to be.
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