Goodbye Mr Chips (MGM 1939, Robert Donat, Greer Garson)

Goodbye Mr Chips

With Goodbye Mr Chips Robert Donat rightly won the Academy Award for Best Actor, beating Clark Gable who had been nominated for Gone With the Wind, for his perfect, poignant performance in this classic film of James Hilton’s celebrated story following a shy retiring English schoolmaster from his first teaching job to his death. Hilton’s original novella, written in just four days to meet a magazine deadline in 1934, is recounted in flashback by the 83-year-old Donat. The story begins with him going to teach at an English boys’ public school as a keen young man. His romance with the girl (played by Academy Award-nominated Greer Garson) whom he meets on holiday in Austria, is attractively integrated into the narrative and marks the only major sequence not set in and around the school.

Goodbye Mr Chips was sensitively directed by Sam Wood who deservedly received an Academy Award nomination, as did the film, screenplay, sound and editing by director-to-be Charles Frend. However, at the core of the film is the superb, seminal performance by Donat who, wrote Dilys Powell in The Sunday Times, “gives a beautiful performance in a part that must be the envy of every actor. Beginning as the eager, idealistic boy, he passes through the hesitations of middle age and the confidence of the man sure of affection to the obstinate benevolence of age with a delicate certainty.” The New York Times applauded Donat’s “convincing transition from young schoolmaster to octogenarian institution”. While Garson was singled out by Graham Greene, writing in The Spectator, “there can be no doubt at all of the skill of this production. The whole picture has an assurance, bears a glow of popularity like the face of a successful candidate on election day”.

Goodbye Mr Chips

Robert Donat as Mr. Chips
Greer Garson as Katherine
Terry Kilburn as John Colley / Peter Colley
John Mills as Peter Colley
Paul Henreid as Staefel
Judith Furse as Flora
Lyn Harding as Wetherby
Milton Rosmer as Chatteris
Frederick Leister as Marsham
Louise Hampton as Mrs. Wickett
Austin Trevor as Ralston
David Tree as Jackson
Edmund Breon as Colonel Morgan
Jill Furse as Helen Colley
Scott Sunderland as Sir John Colley

crew details
Director: Sam Wood
Writers:R C Sherriff, Claudine West, Eric Maschwitz, Sidney Franklin
Novel: James Hilton

production details
Country: UK
Studio: MGM
Year of Release: 1939
Duration: 114 minutes

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