Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Sam Wood, 1939, bw (8.6*)
Based on the novel by James Hilton (Lost Horizon), this is perhaps the quintessential Hollywood film about a teacher, in this case a Mr. Chipping, wonderfully played by Robert Donat in a career defining role, an uptight professor at a private boys school. Over time, he opens up and gains the affection of literally thousands of students in a heartwarming story of transformation. On a vacation (and around age 50), he meets the enchanting Greer Garson (half his age, in the supporting role that made her a star) hiding out from a storm, and she changes his life, as well as giving him his nickname, Mr. Chips.

Perhaps the one flaw in the film is that we get a lot of detail in the beginning and end of his teaching career, but the central portion that forms the core of his adult life is shown as a montage of calendars and images of time passing in just a minute or so. I felt cheated of the stories that would have made the students revere and honor him. We're visually led to believe that simply time moving by is responsible.

Mr. Chips was nominated for 7 Oscars®, including picture, director, screenplay, actress, actor - and many today feel that it was a better picture than winner Gone With the Wind. Robert Donat did receive a well-deserved best actor award, upsetting the more popular Clark Gable. Don't bother with the musical remake starring Peter O'Toole; it's one of those that lends argument to prohibiting remakes at all.

I suppose were I to rank the top films of 1939: (1) Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (2) Goodbye, Mr. Chips (3) The Rains Came (4) The Wizard of Oz (5) The Women
The Rains Came actually won the special effects Oscar® over favorites Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind, for it's incredible depiction of an earthquake, dam collapse, and flood in India in 1916 - it's an underrated and under-viewed classic, featuring perhaps Myrna Loy's finest dramatic performance.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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