The Story … Goodbye, Mr Chips
Due to a cold, retired schoolteacher, Mr Chipping misses a first-day assembly at Brookfield public school for the first time in 58 years.
That afternoon, he falls asleep in his chair and his teaching career is related via flashback.
When 25-year-old Charles Edward Chipping first arrives as a Latin teacher in 1870, he becomes a target of practical jokes on his first day. He reacts by imposing strict discipline in his classroom, making him disliked but respected. Twenty years pass and he becomes the senior master.
He is disappointed in not receiving an appointment as a housemaster within the school for the following year. However, the new German teacher, Max Staefel, saves him from despair by inviting him to share a walking holiday to his native Austria.
While mountain-climbing, Chipping encounters Kathy Ellis, a feisty English suffragette who is on a cycling holiday with a friend.
They meet again in Vienna, where she persuades him to dance to the Blue Danube Waltz. (This piece of music is used as a leitmotif, symbolizing Chipping’s love for her.) Staefel remarks that the Danube does not appear blue, but Chipping remarks it only appears so to those who are in love. On another part of the same boat, as Kathy looks at the river, she tells her friend that it is blue.
Even though Kathy is considerably younger and livelier than Chipping, she loves and marries him. They return to England, where Kathy takes up residence at the school, charming everyone with her warmth.
During their tragically short marriage (she dies in childbirth, along with their baby), she brings “Chips” out of his shell and shows him how to be a better teacher. He acquires a flair for Latin puns. As the years pass, Chips becomes a much-loved school institution, developing a rapport with generations of pupils; he teaches the sons and grandsons of many of his earlier pupils.
In 1909, when he is pressured to retire by a more “modern” headmaster, the boys and the board of governors of the school take his side of the argument and tell him he can stay until he is 100, and that he is free to pronounce Cicero as SIS-er-ro, and not as KEE-kir-ro.
Chips finally retires in 1914 at the age of 69, saying, “Haec olim meminisse iuvabit” (One day, we’ll look back on this and smile), but is summoned back to serve as interim headmaster because of the shortage of teachers resulting from the First World War.
He remembers Kathy had predicted he would become headmaster one day. During a bombing attack by a German Zeppelin, Chips insists that the boys keep on translating their Latin, choosing the story of Julius Caesar’s battles against Germanic tribes, which describes the latter’s belligerent nature, much to the amusement of his pupils.
As the Great War drags on, Chips reads aloud into the school’s Roll of Honour every Sunday the names of the many former boys and teachers who have died in the war. Upon discovering that Max Staefel has died fighting on the German side, Chips reads out his name in chapel, too.
He retires permanently in 1918 but continues living nearby. He is on his deathbed in 1933 when he overhears his colleagues talking about him.
He responds, “I thought I heard you say it was a pity—pity I never had any children but you’re wrong, I have – Thousands of them, thousands of them…and all…boys.”
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- Directed by : Sam Wood
- Screenplay by : R. C. Sherriff, Claudine West and Eric Maschwitz
- Based on : Goodbye, Mr Chips 1934 novel by James Hilton
- Produced by : Victor Saville
- Cinematography : Freddie Young
- Edited by : Charles Frend
- Music by : Richard Addinsell
- Production Company : Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
- Release Date : 15 May 1939
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