Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Earnest, sweet, and charming, 1939's Goodbye, Mr. Chips is one of those classic films that falls under the category of "they just don't make 'em like they used to." It's hard to picture modern studio execs greenlighting the poignant life story of a boys' school teacher unless (as in The Emperor's Club) it had some kind of important moral or message. Mr. Chips' only message is that even those who've given up on love and fulfillment can find it waiting for them in the most unexpected places. It's unexpected love, in the form of lovely, spirited Katherine (Greer Garson, making her big-screen debut) that transforms the life of shy, strict Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat, in an Oscar-winning performance), a classics master at England's venerable Brookfield School. Terrified of losing his students' respect and his job as a young teacher in the 1870s, Chipping earns a reputation as a cheerless, boring taskmaster who cares more about facts than winning the cricket cup. But when friendly German teacher Max Staefel (Paul Henreid) convinces Chipping to throw routine to the wind and accompany him on a summer walking tour, the now-middle aged master meets his fate amongst the mountain mists. Not only does the vivacious Katherine convince Chipping that he's worth loving, but she also overhauls his status at Brookfield she charms his fellow teachers, befriends all the boys, and encourages "Chips" to let his true personality shine through. And despite the sorrows that eventually befall him, that's exactly what he does, becoming the school's most beloved institution and a mentor to generations of eager young boys. Donat's performance is excellent; only 34 when the film was released, he's entirely convincing as both the middle-aged and elderly Mr. Chips, and his conspiratorial, twinkle-eyed attitude as the latter makes him one of the screen's most endearing characters. And Garson is delightful; she makes Katherine's heartfelt faith in her husband seem sincere, sexy, and inspirational all at once. Still touching and funny decades after its debut, Goodbye, Mr. Chips (based on the novel by James Hilton) has earned the right to be called a classic. Warner's DVD presents the film in a full-screen transfer (1.33:1 OAR). Unfortunately, the black-and-white print is grainy and flawed in spots, due to the source print's age. Audio options include English and French mono tracks and English, Spanish, and French subtitles. No extras, snap-case.