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In 1969, MGM released a musical remake of the 1939 film Goodbye, Mr. Chips featuring the songs of Leslie Briscusse with orchestration by John Williams. Peter O'Toole was cast as Arthur Chipping, the schoolteacher originally played on film by Robert Donat, and Petula Clark won the featured role of Katherine Bridges, a showgirl with a past. The story originated as a novel by James Hilton in 1935, and was first adapted on stage. The play enjoyed a successful run in 1937, and Hollywood snatched it up in 1939 with positive, Oscar®-nominated results. Following the success of The Sound of Music in 1965, Hollywood studios scrambled to produce the next big musical, and this "long short story", as Hilton called his novel, seemed ideal for reworking.
Whereas the 1939 version runs from the mid to late 19th century to World War I, MGM chose to make the 1969 version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips more contemporary, with a narrative running from the 1920's to the present day. At the center of the film is Arthur Chipping, a classics teacher at an English school named Brookfield, who is unpopular with his students for being a stick-in-the-mud. On vacation in Pompeii, Chips, as he is called by his students, meets a vivacious actress named Katherine, who is being courted by one of Chips's students. The showgirl and the professor are immediately attracted to one another and end up marrying. While the parents and faculty back at Brookfield are not pleased by Chips's union with a showgirl, the unlikely union gains Chips the respect and admiration of his students.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips may not have been a box-office smash, but it is worth a closer look. O'Toole was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for his wonderful portrayal of the strict schoolteacher who mellows over time once he gives his heart to the love of his life. Petula Clark also gives a great performance as Katherine; her popularity as a singer (remember the hit single, "Downtown"?) aided in drawing crowds to the movie theaters. Also look for O'Toole's then-wife Sian Phillips in a flamboyant role as a woman who is having a secret affair.
Director: Herbert Ross
Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs
Screenplay: Terence Rattigan (uncredited) Based on the novel by James Hilton
Cinematography: Oswald Morris
Editor: Ralph Kemplen
Production Design: Ken Adam
Music: Leslie Briscusse, John Williams
Cast: Peter O'Toole (Arthur Chipping), Petulia Clark (Katherine Bridges), Michael Redgrave (The Headmaster), Sian Phillips (Ursula Mossbank), George Baker (Lord Sutterwick).
C-155m. Letterboxed. Closed Captioning.
by Sarah Heiman