Hello, Mr. Chips

So why is such an old movie (1939) a recent favorite of mine? Well of course because it’s a teaching movie, of sorts. But more so because it exemplifies the wonderful notion that marriage is redemptive. If you have not seen the movie or read the book, and the book is better, than let me give you some of the highlights without, I hope, ruining it all for you:
A. Young man arrives at old English boarding school.
B. Students give him a roughing up, so he determines he will be firm.
C. Boys respect him, but there is something missing from his relationship with them – there is no real engagement.
D. Chipping, the teacher, heads to the Alps for a holiday, meets his wife to be.
E. Marriage, and most notably the calculating moves of his new wife, change the teacher into “Chips” the likeable and more humorous new form of the old teacher.
F. The twists and turns of life bring him to the end of it as a loved and venerated old master.

Charles Dunat, the principle actor, and the director, whose name escaped me, work together either accidentally or on purpose to reel me in with Chip’s eyes. At the train station as he first arrives, I see his eyes right away. When he is in the midst of terror his first class, his eyes are the focal point again. And over and over, you see the eyes. Often soft, often far away, all too often with pain over one disappointment or another, but forever returning with life and sparkle.

Yes, its b/w. Yes its old, though it did get the nod for Best Picture that year. Not much action, as modern movies go. Not even perhaps the greatest supporting actors, though the boys ring true more often than not. But a classic, and rightfully so. I must add it to my library soon.


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