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Up the Down Staircase (1967)

 -  Drama  -  19 July 1967 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 982 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 12 critic

The experiences of a young female English teacher in an inner-city New York high school.



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Title: Up the Down Staircase (1967)

Up the Down Staircase (1967) on IMDb 7.2/10

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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Patrick Bedford ...
Paul Barringer
Henrietta Pastorfield
Beatrice Schacter
Sadie Finch
Dr. Bester
Roy Poole ...
Mr. McHabe
Ella Friedenberg
Vinnette Carroll ...
The Mother
Janice Mars ...
Miss Gordon
Loretta Leversee ...
Social Studies Teacher
John Callahan
Denis Fay
Otto Lomax
Martha Greenhouse ...
Alberta Kagan


Sylvia Barrett is a rookie teacher at New York's inner-city Calvin Coolidge High: her lit classes are overcrowded, a window is broken, there's no chalk, books arrive late. The administration is concerned mainly with forms and rules (there's an up and and a down staircase); bells ring at the wrong time. Nevertheless, she tries. How she handles the chaos and her despair in her first semester makes up the film: a promising student drops out, another sleeps through class, a girl with a crush on a male teacher gets suicidal, and a bright but troublesome student misunderstands Sylvia's reaching out. A discussion of Dickens, parents' night, and a mock trial highlight the term. Can she make it? Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

school | student | teacher | new york | class | See more »


Simple words that could start a war. See more »




Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

19 July 1967 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Up the Down Staircase  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Film debut of Bud Cort, in an uncredited walk-on role as a student. He is seen at the tail end of the film, chewing gum and tossing a book in the air as he passes by Sandy Dennis in the school hallway. See more »


When GO President Kagan is talking to Miss Barrett, his tie keeps changing lengths. In the close-ups it is short, just above his belt. In the long shots is appears to be tucked into his belt. See more »


[Suggesting a teaching method]
Paul Barringer: Ever tried "punctuation sex", Henrietta? Hyphens are kisses, commas are maybes, and a period is a definite no. And then of course, there's the... limitless realms of semicolons and apostrophes. I shudder to think what an exclamation point might mean.
See more »


Referenced in The Acid Eaters (1968) See more »

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User Reviews

The usual story about the inner city teacher
9 April 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Up the Down Staircase is one in a series of films that explore the difficulties of teaching in an inner city high school. Its theme is that a caring teacher can make a difference in the life of a student, overcoming the sad realities and the fears that come with the territory.

The Blackboard Jungle (1955) came before this film. Later came To Sir with Love, and Stand and Deliver. It sometimes seems unrealistic that a teacher in such a dangerous and discouraging environment could persevere and succeed. But we must remember that Stand and Deliver is a true story about a real teacher who achieved remarkable results.

One reviewer called Sandy Dennis "quirky". That description fits her, as well as some others in the film (Eileen Heckart, Jean Stapleton, etc.). The result is a feeling that the classroom--and the school in general--is teetering on the edge between success and failure.

Another reviewer, a teacher, asserted that school environment portrayed in the film is unrealistic. I personally know a teacher who survived many years in the Trenton NJ school system and who daily regaled me with her stories about a ridiculously political and inept administration, inadequate supplies, and threats to personal safety. In this regard, the film is true.

In the end, the truth is that many teachers who are employees of such systems do not deserve the name "teacher", but only seek to survive another day with no concern for the students. But there are exceptional teachers, all the more remarkable because of their scarcity.

Up the Down Staircase is not the best of this genre, but it honestly portrays the challenges of an inner city teacher. And it honors those teachers who care and persevere. I give it a "6".

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