Director: Sam Wood
Writer: R. C. Sherriff, Claudine West, and Eric Maschwitz
Producer: Victor Saville
Cinematographer: Freddie Young
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
At first I thought this was going to be the shifting point of the film from it’s Feel Good style and into something more dreary, and yet the narrative somehow moved on. Mr. Chips eventually gets over it, paving way for his next obstacle - getting along with the new and much younger and more modern Headmaster who wants to change the way Latin pronunciations are taught. For instance, having Cicero pronounced KEEK-kir-ro instead of SIS-er-ro (I’m stealing this phonetic breakdowns from Wikipedia), which completely enrages Mr. Chips, who expresses more emotion with this news than in all the rest movie combined (including his wife and child’s death). The New Headmaster then uses this as an opportunity to force Chip’s retirement. Chips refuses either, storming out of the office in his tattered, now famous, black robe and imploring the assistance of other professors to fight for his job and teaching methods. He wins the battle and eventually the New Headmaster’s heart, who finally understands Chip’s vast amount of admirers (which is a near identical relationship as that between Mr. Holland and his Principal).
Soon World War 1 breaks out and the majority of students and teachers are sent to the front line. With Chip now pushing nearly 80 years old, he’s passed for the draft and instead approached by the Headmaster to take the position as he rushes off to join the fight. Mr. Chips finally gets his chance for the position he always wanted, learning all of the hardships and annoyances that come with it. Having never been shown offering any corporal punishment, we see him confront a troublesome boy who gives him lip, having to beat him with a cane when the boy refuses to listen or change. Soon the War ends, everyone returns and Chips finally takes official retirement, living down the street from the school. The film closes where it opens, with Chips sitting before a fire, reflecting on his life, taking ill that night. He’s brought up to bed, staring at the ceiling. In a morbid moment, those caring for him discuss how sad it is that he never got to have children. Mr. Chips looks up, professing that he did have children - thousands of them. Suddenly it cuts to the dozens of children introducing themselves to him throughout the years, until the scene crossfades to the ceiling Mr. Chips is looking at, fading to black. Goodbye, Mr. Chips.
It is rare to see movies like this - both exceptionally well crafted and Feel Good, with the latter seemingly reserved for Hallmark movies nowadays. It’s been so long since I’ve seen a Feel Good movie made by a great filmmaker, who simply wanted to explore a great person or joyful story, without the need for profanity, violence, or sex. It’s not an easy accomplishment.
BELOW: Possibly the first Teacher's-First-Day scene; later replicated by such films as Dangerous Minds and Sister Act
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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