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Recorded on a budget of just $640,000, To Sir, With Love was drafted,
as with Lilies of the Field, to give Sidney a share of the gross
profits to account for his diminished fee. Writer-director Clavell also
received the same arrangement, a writer who was chosen for his love of
the source material. The rights to the source, an identically-named
novel by E. R. Braithwaite, had passed from studio to studio, and been
offered to numerous stars before finally getting the green light when
in the hands of Columbia President Mike Frankovich.
Poitier noted in his autobiography the similarities in terms of racial issues between America and England. Filmed in London, the picture featured a number of minorities, many of whom, he observed, would be unable to find work outside of the confines of the movie. However, for his time spent with the cast, he was delighted with their company. Sidney played Mark Thackeray, one of his most famous characters, an engineer taking a teaching post as a stopgap between jobs. Eventually the relationship he develops with the students causes him to question his loyalty to the profession.
To Sir, With Love is often frowned upon nowadays due to its sentimentality. While not wholly condemned as a film, it is certainly regarded as the poor relation of Poitier's three 1967 works. This is an unfair assessment of a movie that commits the only crime of having its heart on its sleeve. And, though the late sixties would see an increase in the political situation, To Sir, With Love was the only one of the three Poitier vehicles that year that did not rely upon his colour for its subtext. Instead, a few bigoted remarks were inserted, largely from a fellow teacher (Geoffrey Bayldon as Mr. Weston) than the pupils. Compared to his other overshadowing works that year, direction paled, too, the camera-work at times almost static. However, the scope for Poitier as an actor was broader than in the other '67 roles, and certainly broader than in the 1996 TV sequel. Where there the plot would be propelled largely by one pupil, here multiple characters would be guided through numerous situations over an entire term period. Over the course of the lengthy film the viewer can feel as though they have experienced the timescale too. And who would argue that the sheer amount of silly moves Sidney and Judy Geeson perform in the final ball didn't directly influence Travolta and Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction?
This movie is about many things teen angst, race relations, and poverty. But what it's *really* about is teased hair, heavy eyeliner and miniskirts. And the title song, of course. Who could ever forget the gushing sentimentality of Lulu warbling about crayons and perfume? It is a charmer of a movie with life breathed into it by a fresh cast of young Brits. Released at a time when the world was captivated by all things British, it was relatively daring at the time it was made. A low-budget film that raked it in at the box office, Poitier, as in *Lilies of the Field*, wisely accepted a low salary in exchange for a share of the profits. But the biggest profit of all is his portrayal of the East End school teacher, Mark Thackery, who quickly learns that his students need a different kind of education than that of a textbook. It has been, unfairly or not, relentlessly compared to *The Blackboard Jungle*, and it is a blood-relation to *Up the Down Staircase* and *Dangerous Minds*. But none of them have the sweetness of Judy Geeson, as Thackery's irrepressible student Pamela Dare. At the end of the movie, when Thackery and Dare dance together, racial, social and philosophical barriers are smashed, and hope springs eternal.
The school movie against which all other school movies are measured. Sidney Poitier was on a roll in 1966-67(A PATCH OF BLUE, GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT)and TO SIR, WITH LOVE crowned that succession of great films. Poitier's Thackery is meticulous and elegant, something of a revelation to the unwashed juvenile deliquents and teen sluts who populate his class. Yet this unemployed engineer has his work cut out for him, as his motley crew will try just about anything(including burning tampons in the classroom stove!)to run him off. Instead of exploding like the kids wish, Thackery takes a different tack; treating them like adults and talking about things they have questions about. The ploy works, and along the way Thackery learns to deal with indifferent fellow teachers, racism, lovestruck female students, and a hard decision that will determine his future . . . A great inspirational movie, TO SIR, WITH LOVE also boasts British songstress Lulu in her first film role, as well as prominent soundtrack artist(The Mindbenders are the others). The process by which Thackery molds these wild, rebellious teens into mature and thoughtful adults--and the teens' resulting respect for Thackery, quite possibly the first respect they've ever felt for an adult--is touching. Definitely a classic film worth seeing.
Sidney Poitier is absolutely superb in this film about a novice teacher who prepares a class of uncouth youths for adulthood. There are too many wonderful scenes to catalogue in this commentary but among the highlights are: his reaction to the naughty chatter of the ladies on the bus, his coping with the young lady who has a crush on him, and his complicated relationship with the stiffnecked rebel of the class. There are so many positive messages imparted in this film and they come across without being heavy-handed. Highly recommended, 9/10.
Rent this movie. Don't read any reviews of it, just go out and rent it.
It's one of the best movies of the last forty years, and Sidney Poitier is just beautiful in it. The movie glows, has a soul even, and actually dares to say something of value. I wish they made more movies like this today! Just a gorgeous movie going experience........
Sidney Poitier's exceptional lead performance anchors this touching
film about that special person who changes your life. As the first time
teacher to a group of undisciplined British youth, Poitier is in
virtually every frame of this picture. It is a role that calls for a
high degree of character development, and Poitier meets and expands the
challenge by totally inhabiting the character he is playing. I honestly
cannot think of any way his performance could be better, and this is a
huge compliment for any actor - even one of Mr. Poitier's immense
While not in the same league, the young cast of then-unknowns also perform quite well. Particularly effective of the young cast members is fresh-faced Judy Geeson, who brings unexpected depth to the stereotypical role of the young schoolgirl love-struck over Mr. Poitier (who could blame her). Director/writer/producer James Clavell avoids over-sentimentalization by inject his well-written script with a healthy dose of realism. The film may not be particularly striking, in the visual sense, but Clavell is a perfectly competent film maker, and his love of the material is evident throughout the entire picture.
The first time I had watched TSWL, I was probably about 14, but not
from the era the film is from. None the less, I found it fascinating,
poignant, funny at times, and warm.
The funny thing is that while the clothes, music and styles may change, the feelings we have are common and do not change much over the years. Kids rebel, test and resist authority, and push the rules. We've all done it in some way or another. I smoked cigs, drank beer and had long hair. Others hung-out with the wrong crowd, drank beer or skipped class.
TSWL as is "The Blackboard Jungle" are dated today, but so are "Class of 1984" and "Stand and Deliver", but they all share the same premise, emotions and struggles. If a movie can convey them honestly, as does "To Sir, with Love", then it deserves recognition. I always like to watch TSWL, it does make you feel good in the long run. Even after all your disobedience at school, most of us grew up and realized the importance of what we had learned and were now sad to leave the memories, friends and teachers.
I think we also realize that we are also leaving a young version of us behind and it's sad to let that childlike version go. It's time to start growing up.
Novice teacher, Mark Thackeray, arrives at a secondary school in a
area of London's East End and transforms a class of jeuvenile delinquents
into a group of responsible, mature and caring young people, confounding
critics amongst the jaundiced teaching staff.
From the very beginning, members of the class try to bait him into losing his temper so that he'll quit. Their previous teacher committed suicide, we are told. Gradually, he gains their trust and helps them overcome their personal struggles, thus winning their respect and friendship.
Its a slice of sixties social idealism that may appear dated and oversentimental to some, but it loses none of its sincerity or good intentions. The book by E.R. Braithwaite was based on his own real life experiences in the 1950's. Once again, James Clavell displays his winning touch with the screenplay and direction. The role of Thackeray had strong appeal to Sidney Poitiers for its portrayal of African-American characters as responsible role-models, a theme common to many of his films. There is a notable screen debut for Judy Geeson who went onto become one of the most fashionable jeuvenile actresses of the late 1960's. With a schoolgirl crush, she competes with beautiful teacher Suzy Kendall for the attentions of Thackeray.
The films sound-track provides good material for another debutante, Lulu, who sings the main title. It went onto become the top-selling record in the U.S. for 1967, but inexplicably, was never released in the U.K. as a single. The lyrics are provided by the highly talented Don Black who had also written the themes to 'Born Free' and 'The Italian Job' as well as collaborating with John Barry on three of the James Bond Films of that period. The backing group are The Mindbenders who provide the school band sound. They had a U.K. No.2 in the charts at the time with 'A Groovy Kind of Love' and in collaboration with Wayne Fontana, a U.S. No.1 with 'Game of Love' the previous year.
The recently released DVD provides a good quality print of this thoroughly enjoyable film and is well worth viewing. I give it ten out of ten.
As one of the movies (along with "In the Heat of the Night" and "Guess
Who's Coming to Dinner") that made 1967 Sidney Poitier's annus
mirabilis, "To Sir, with Love" shows a man forced to take charge in a
less-than-pleasant situation. Poitier plays Mark Thackeray, a Guyanese
engineer hired to teach in a high school in a rough London
neighborhood. The students not only have little interest in school, but
are not quite ready to be taught by a black man. Mark is forced to show
the students that he will not tolerate insubordination.
Poitier did great in this role, with good support from the rest of the cast (including Lulu, who sang the theme song). It affirms his status as one of the greatest actors in movie history. And also, I hope that nobody tries to compare this with "Dangerous Minds"; the latter was in my opinion an insult. "To Sir, with Love" was a masterpiece.
A new teacher arrives at a tough inner city school populated by teenage hooligans . Hardly a new concept for a movie is it ? , but TO SIR WITH LOVE is slightly different from the same type of film made in the 1980s and 90s , it`s set in swinging sixties London when Britannia really was cool , and the kids are " Cor blimey guvner " cockney kids who are not really bad , they`re just misunderstood and if you treat them as adults they`ll behave like adults . This is a totally naive , predictable film with an extremely progressive streak but that`s what I enjoyed about it as Mark Thackeray shows the kids what being an adult is all about . There`s not a cynical bone in this movie`s body , and it`s good to remember a time when a " really tough " school meant pupils talking in class and slamming doors
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