Take a Drink: for (mild) endearing insults
Take a Drink: whenever Mr. Chips does something “old-fashioned”
Take a Drink: for every reference to how silver spoon these kids are
Take a Drink: for every learning experience for young Mr. Chips
Take a Drink: whenever the boys are assholes
Do a Shot: whenever you’re glad you don’t teach pubescent boys (it’s hell- I’ve done it).
By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
The boarding school drama has taken many forms over the years, but from Zero for Conduct to Boys Town to If… to Dead Poets Society it’s proven a source of constant fascination for filmmakers, perhaps because for decades you were obligated to present your silver spoon to studios before you were allowed to direct a film.
Jolly good, here’s your clapper…
While I named earlier films above, in a lot of ways Goodbye, Mr. Chips is the O.G. of boarding school films. In it, well-loved, elderly Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat) reflects on his life, love (Greer Garson), and most of all long teaching career at his beloved Brookfield.
This is a deeply nostalgic, bittersweet film, but an inherently decent, humanistic one as well. The closes I can compare it to anything is a Frank Capra drama, light-hearted and empathetic, but unafraid to go to the dark places that every person inevitably faces in their lives.
The effect is just so damn likable- there’s not a mean bone in this film’s body, even with its surprisingly sharp and amusing wit, but it still manages to feel authentic, from Mr. Chips’ early struggles as a young teacher to balance the tricky scales of respect and affection from his students to the pain of a headmaster’s lot during wartime, reading lists of the many friends (and occasional foe) lost to its pitiless machinery.
Robert Donat does a spectacular (and Best Actor-winning) job in the central role, convincingly playing an entire range of ages almost entirely older than his own at the time, and creating a character who’s tentative, a little stuffy, but well-meaning, who believably evolves into the wise, beloved figure we meet in the beginning.
There’s a 34 year old man under there.
Greer Garson is a fetching, charismatic, and witty presence, and I can’t complain at all about her acting. Her character is a bit of a proto-magic pixie dream girl, though (she even makes him more popular at school!), and while you’re happy her and Chipping’s romance works out, especially with their easy chemistry, it’s never really clear why she falls for the prematurely codgery Mr. Chips so quickly and decisively.
It’s also distracting how they reuse the same child actors for various classes decades apart, like we wouldn’t notice. Lil’ Eddie Munster shows up like five times.
What are you, some sort of goddam elf?
Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a warm, often touching drama spanning the lifetime of a cherished teacher, boasting a great central performance.