Musical Monday: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969) – Musical #606

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Herbert Ross

Peter O’Toole, Petula Clark, Michael Redgrave, George Baker, Siân Phillips, Michael Bryant, Michael Culver

In a film that begins in the 1920s and ends in the years following World War II, Arthur Chipping (O’Toole) is an unpopular teacher at an all boy’s school. He falls in love and marries a showgirl Katherine Bridges (Clark). The school and its patrons don’t think Katherine is refined enough to be connected to the school.

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TCMFF Watching 1939: Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult.

1939 film: Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Release date: May 15, 1939 (New York City premiere)

Cast: Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Terry Kilburn, Paul Henreid, John Mills, Judith Furse

Studio: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Director: Sam Wood

Long-time and beloved teacher, Mr. Chipping (Donat) reflects on his teaching career and life, looking back on 1870 to 1933. Starting out as a stuffy young man, his wife (Garson) helps bring him out of his shell and shows him how to be a better teacher, which endears his students to him.

1939 Notes:
• Greer Garson’s first film.
• This was the only film Robert Donat acted in that was released in 1939
• Paul Henreid’s only film of 1939 and he is billed as Paul Von Hernried
• Terry Kilburn was in five films released in 1939.

Robert Donat and Greer Garson in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Other trivia:
• Based on a novel by James Hilton
• Myrna Loy was originally considered for the role of Mrs. Chips but, when she went to 20th Century Fox. Elizabeth Allan was also considered for the role, according to the biography A Rose for Mrs. Miniver: The Life of Greer Garson.
• Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was interested in making a film version of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” as early as 1934, but Irving Thalberg’s production schedule put the film on the backburner. Over the years before it was made, Lionel Barrymore and Charles Laughton were considered for the role. The film idea was shelved when Thalberg died in 1936, and James Hilton was interested in Wallace Beery, according to Tryon’s book.
• Remade as a musical in 1969 with the same title starring Peter O’Toole and Petula Clark
• Premiered in New York City in May and London in June
• Robert Donat won the Academy Award for Best Actor and was not present for the awards ceremony. Director Victor Saville accepted the accolade on his behalf.
• Donat ages from 25 to 88 in the film.
• Filmed at MGM’s London studio

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
When it comes to the top films of 1939, “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is one I would consider one of the top films.

Not only do I say this because it’s a lovely and sweet story, but also because of the career, it launched.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is the story of an elderly teacher at an English boy’s school looking back on his life and career. It begins when he’s 25 and starting off as a teacher with no experience. For many years, the teacher, Mr. Chipping played by Robert Donat, isn’t popular with his students. His punishments are rough, sometimes affecting the whole school, and his manner is aloof. Mr. Chipping’s attitude even causes him to miss out on a promotion. It’s not until he meets his wife, Katherine played by Greer Garson, that she teaches him to soften and joke with his students and act human. Though Mrs. Chipping passes away in childbirth, Mr. Chipping (called Mr. Chips now by his students) continues to be popular among his students. Even after he retires, he returns to help the school during World War I.

“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is a quiet film but is sweet and engaging. Robert Donat plays the role of the teacher well, from his haughty youth, shy middle age to sweet elderly years. And you also have to give kudos to Jack Dawn, the makeup artist who effectively aged Donat from 25 years old to 88 years old. Donat was already a star by the time this film was released, particularly after starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s “39 Steps” (1935), but this was his only film released in 1939.

Donat also won his only Academy Award for this film, beating out Clark Gable for “Gone with the Wind,” Mickey Rooney for “Babes in Arms,” Laurence Olivier for “Wuthering Heights,” and James Stewart for “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” This would be his last Academy Award nomination, his other came a year earlier for “The Citadel” (1938)

Though Donat was the Academy Award winner, his co-star is also notable. “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is the first film role for Greer Garson. Her biographer Michael Tryon wrote that Garson was reluctant to take the role, because it is brief. However, Greer Garson is a bright spot in the film and her character is pivotal in the transformation in the main character.

For her screen debut, Greer Garson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress. Her warmth comes across on screen and Garson glows as she helps Donat realize that not everything in life has to be quite so formal.

The film also showcases other new talents. Paul Henreid co-stars as a fellow teacher in one of his early film roles. We also see child star Terry Kilburn in his fifth role-playing several characters. Kilburn appears at the beginning and returns playing the child, grandchild or great-grandchild of those who came before him.

I had the opportunity to see “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” on 35mm film at the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival. It was wonderful to revisit this film after several years on a 35mm print that came from the British Film Institute.

James Hilton’s lovely “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is such a heartwarming film and you may need a tissue or two to get through it. But it’s a wonderful movie and brightened even more by Greer Garson. It’s incredible to think this was her first film, as she fits in like she belonged on screen.

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Confessions of a VHS User

222 classic movies on VHS tapes

Recently my mother told me that we had an estimated 222 movies taped off of Turner Classic Movies. Why you ask?

Every month I flip through the “Turner Classic Movie Now Playing Guide” and make a list of 20 to 50 movies to tape.

Our family owns a DVR but we use VHS tapes, because they hold more, are reusable and usually give us higher quality.

I tape so many movies so I can fulfill the many lists I have made to organize my old movie obsessions.

Here is a very brief summary of the lists I have so far:
-Movie Musical list: I have currently seen 374 musicals. I started this list back in 2004 when I was in 9th grade.  This includes any movie musical I have seen, new or old; anything from a Kay Kyser musical to “Chicago.”
-Silent Movie list: This currently only has 40 movies. I only started really getting interested in silent films in late 2008 and just started the list in March 2010.
-Screen teams: This is a list of famous screen teams such as Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland, Myrna Loy and William Powell, Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon.  I try to see all of the movies the screen teams were in together.
-Movies Series: Similarly to the Screen Teams list, I am trying to see all the movies in certain film series such as Andy Hardy, Dr. Kildaire and Maisie.
-Actresses Lists: I have 47 actresses that I am trying to see all of their movies. A few of these are Jean Arthur, Bette Davis and Kay Francis. So far I’ve only seen all of Judy Garland’s movies.
-Actors Lists: Similar to the actress list, except with 19 actors. Lists include Van Johnson, Dana Andrews and George Brent.

Recently, I have started a rather ambitious list. It is all of the movies from 1939- a total of 514 movies and I have only seen 84.

“The Rains Came”: 20th Century Fox’s contribution to the 1939 royalty

The year of 1939 is important not just for “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind,” but it also birthed other well known movies such as “Ninotchka,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” “Stagecoach” and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

It’s amazing to look at all of the films that came out during what is known as “Hollywood’s Greatest Year,” and I was inspired to try to see all of them.

Turner Classic Movies showed a documentary in the summer of 2009 called “1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year.” The documentary said the reason this year was profitable was the United States was slowly getting out of the depression and the film companies were able to fund bigger projects.

However, this glory only lasted one year.  Two years later World War II hit, actors were drafted and America and Hollywood put their efforts toward the war on the home front and overseas. Once the war was over, the tone of America and movies changed from light and happy 1930s films to darker and angsty melodramas, according to the documentary.

In a way, this is why I want to make the list. I feel like when people hear 1939, they think of “Gone with the Wind” or “Wizard of Oz,” but there were so many other special movies that year. I want to see if the other films that you don’t hear about have that same magic. Who knows, once I finish watching all 514 movies maybe I’ll try my hand at writing a book.

Making the list took maybe three days, however I know that the watching process will take much longer. I’m worried about being able to track some of the movies and making it through low budget crime movies.

Wish me luck!

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