Up the Down Staircase (1967)


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Movie Info

A serious social drama film of the type that flourished in the 1960's, Up the Down Staircase seems somewhat dated and preachy when viewed by modern audiences. The subject matter is laudable, of course: an ambitious, spirited and concerned young teacher determined to make a difference in a troubled inner city school. And there are quite a few memorable moments, including a very well-directed juxtaposition of Sylvia Barrett triumphing by getting her class excited about A Tale of Two Cities as the … More

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Tad Mosel
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 6, 2007


as Sylvia Barrett

as Paul Barringer

as Henrietta Pastorfiel...

as McHabe

as Miss Schracter

as Miss Finch

as Bester

as Ella Friedenberg

as Harry A. Kagan

as Ed Williams

as Carole Blanca

as Lou Martin

as Social Studies Teach...

as Mr. Osborne

as The Mother

as Nurse Eagen

as Charlotte Wolf

as Linda Rosen

as Miss Gordon
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Up the Down Staircase

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (4)

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | May 9, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

Humorless version of Kaufman's novel doesn't show Mulligan's personal touch.

Full Review… | August 16, 2012
Classic Film and Television

Picks up where Blackboard Jungle (1955) left off.

Full Review… | January 8, 2010
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Up the Down Staircase

Well made, well acted drama of a young teacher's struggle to adapt to a tough inner city school. Some of the sheen has worn off the topicality of the issue since there have been many versions of it but this is a fine rendering of the tale. Sandy Dennis is perfectly cast in the lead.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer

I really like Sandy Dennis in this film, and her character. Her nervous energy makes her feel real. It's a unique style that works well in this emotional drama. (First and only viewing - 11/18/2014)

The first major film to put a chirpy/quirky spin on the 'tough school' genre first defined by 1955's "Blackboard Jungle."

From a 1964 Bel Kaufman novella, born of her keen observations and notebooks while inside the New York City school system. First out on DVD in late 2007; WB's DVD transfer quality is surprisingly high.

Sandy Dennis slips easily into her role as naive break-in teacher at fictional Coolidge High. Coolidge's foremost problem is that it's more an impotent bureaucracy than any kind of institution of learning, with many of its teachers and administrators bunkered well inside silos built of complex, needless paperwork.

Along the way Dennis encounters a variety of now-predictable scenarios: student abused by parent, punk takes compassion as come-on, student crush on teacher (and vice-versa), student without parent or home. Dennis truly excels at her subtle revealing of the character's emotions as she navigates and eventually finds port within such choppy waters.

Perhaps the film's scenarios are no revelation today, but it surely jolted 1967 viewers reared amidst the cornfields of Iowa.

As a once NYC public school student, I know there is validity in the notions this film sets out to portray. Two-foot-wide red centerlines down each hall ensured only counter-clockwise flow of students. Classroom order was the only goal for many instructors; one Spanish teacher told endless macabre tales to mesmerize, skinning his neighbor's cats alive was but one of them. The Principal was unknown by sight; only his voice booming through the classroom speaker boxes was familiar. Truants went undetected for months until the paperwork caught up to them.

And there's a strong concordance between this film and many of my personal experiences while teaching within 'a high-need urban high school.'

These situations cannot be so much improved decades later.

Accordingly, I find this film is still well recommended immersion for those considering K-12 teaching as 'a profession.'

TonyPolito Polito

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