Goodbye Mr Chips (1939)

Directed by Sam Wood 

Who’s in it? Robert Donat, Greer Garson

What’s it about? Adapted from James Hilton’s 1934 novel, Goodbye Mr Chips is a poignant depiction of the innocence of childhood and the childhood of innocence. A beloved public schoolteacher (an Oscar-winning Donat) moulds the young minds in his care into promising young men, only to see his former pupils conscripted into the army at the outbreak of World War I. This thematically ambitious biopic follows the key stages in the life of our eponymous hero, spanning two centuries from 1870 to 1933, as he meets his wife (Garson), falls in love, learns to live and lives to teach.

Memorable Moments? The sequence in which Donat’s socially awkward and sincere schoolteacher sees the love of his life off on the train as she says “Goodbye Mr. Chips”, is a neat metaphor for the film’s accessible nostalgia and hopeful romanticism. He stumbles after her stuttering a belated proposal as the train screeches out of the station: “You kissed me!”, he says, and, Hanging out the window, she says, “Oh I know it was awful of me”, to which he replies, “Look here, you’ll have to marry me now you know!”.

Look Who’s talking: ‘The original inspirational-teacher story, and a beloved valentine to classical education, tradition, and the English public boarding schools of a bygone era.’ – Decent Films Guide

Like that? Try this: Shadowlands (1993), starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, is a biopic of the bachelor years of Belfast born author and Oxford professor C.S Lewis. A superbly paced and perfectly performed character study on the mystery of suffering and the joys, however fleeting, which make it worthwhile – “The pain now is part of the happiness then. That’s the deal”.

Trivia Pusuit The film was up against Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz for Best Picture at the 1939 Oscars.

Ronan Wright is a graduate in Film Studies from The Queen’s University of Belfast. As well as contributing to MercatorNet as a film critic since March 2011 he has run Filmplicity, a Belfast-based film...