Goodbye, Mr. Chips - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Goodbye, Mr. Chips Reviews

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Cameron W. Johnson
Super Reviewer
½ June 12, 2013
"Goodbye, Mr. Chips; who could hang a name on you when you change with every new day? Still, I'm gonna miss you!" Oh no, wait, this isn't the musical adaptation of the James Hilton classic, and besides, if it was, I doubt that it would be featuring The Rolling Stones, because "Ruby Tuesday" is by no means an especially well-sung song, and plus, in 1969, The Stones were too up-and-coming to already have movie deals. Granted, Mick Jagger did "Performance" in '68, but the point is that Herbert Ross' "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" is a remake, and it's still been around about as long as The Rolling Stones, so you know that this film is old. Man, this film is so old that it still featured Jackie as the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer logo lion (Learn your film history, kids), and yet, many of the annoyingly nostalgic critics prefer the younger film than this one. Well, to be fair, people just might not remember this film, which is so forgotten that it's emphatic about its starring Robert Donat, whose only had "The 39 Steps", "The Private Life of Henry VIII"... and 1934's "The Count of Monte Cristo"... within a three-year span... starting at his second year in the business, going for him. Hey, I guess Donat was a pretty big star, which is good, because as this film will tell you, he was pretty talented, though not so much so that he could make you forget the final product's flaws.

It's not exactly pip-pip cheerioing and whatnot, but this film is still mighty British, complete with a dry approach to things that is often very charmingly witty, but holds a tendency to leave the atmosphere to get a bit limp, with kick limitations that cause pacing to suffer and leave some disengaging blandness to ensue. Sure, the film is generally entertaining, or at least not as dry as it could have been, but there are still those fair deal of slow spells that throw you off and give you time to think about how the film is, well, kind of aimless. Driven by meandering filler that quickly gets to be repetitious, the film's storytelling wanders about with limited direction that isn't so thin that you don't get the occasional sense of progression, but is ultimately thin enough to make this film's runtime more palpable than it should be. The film is by no means terribly long, at least when you compare it to its 1969 musical counterpart, so it's not like storytelling drags its feet for ages, but make no mistake, the fact of the matter is that plotting's structure is something of a mess that meanders along repetitiously and, well, is to be expected, because, really, where does this story have to go? Okay, the film's story is hardly needled-thin, but it is thin, with a limited sense of meaty consequence and direction that may be intentional, but is still kind of problematic, pumping the final product with natural shortcomings that it doesn't simply fail to dilute, but makes all the more glaring with the aforementioned issues in atmospheric and structural pacing. There's really not much to this film, and sure, what it does right is done very well, but quite frankly, that isn't really enough for you to not notice the issues so much, to where the final product ends up falling as underwhelming, if not kind of forgettable. That being said, when the film is occupying your time, rather than struggling to occupy your memory, it keeps you going, having plenty of issues when it comes to storytelling and conceptual intrigue, but just enough strength to entertain adequately.

Needless to say, this film is hardly as driven by its musical aspects as its 1969 counterpart, and makes sure to remind you by underusing Richard Addinsell's score, which, upon actually being used, is typically not fleshed out to the fullest, and is all too often tainted by a degree of conventionalism that further disengages, but ultimately does only so much damage to Addinsell's efforts, which are still spirited enough and recurring enough to play something of a hefty part in breathing some liveliness into this generally dry project. The film's score is decent and reasonably complimentary to color, but really, outside of the musical aspects, as well as the occasional handsome spot in Freddie Young's cinematography (Sorry, Freddie Young fans, but this is no David Lean epic), there's really not too much artistic punch-up to this film, thus storytelling single-handedly takes on the burden of keeping you going with the film, something that storytelling has only so much power to charge. As I said earlier, this film's storytelling aspects are flawed, with dry spells, aimless structuring and even a story concept that is lacking in meat, and that shakes the final product's grip on you, but doesn't quite leave you to completely slip out, because as underwhelming as this film's story is in a lot of way, it is very charming, with an endearing heart and certain intriguing spots in subject matter that open some opportunities for those translating James Hilton's story. Needless to say, screenwriters R. C. Sherriff's, Claudine West's and Eric Maschwitz's interpretation of Hilton's story gets to be questionable, structuring plotting in an aimless fashion that dilutes kick that was never to be too rich, but all but compensating for its shortcomings with a sharp wit that adds to charm and a fair degree of entertainment value. When I said that the film hits particularly bland spells, I really did mean it, though I'd be lying if I said that the film ever slips into downright dullness, thanks to an adequate degree of colorful wit within Sherriff's, West's and Maschwitz's screenplay, which, at the very least, delivers on engaging characterization that is made all the more engaging by the portrayals of the characters. Okay, quite honestly, several of the unevenly used younger performers hardly help their characters' obnoxiousness with improvable performances, but when it comes to the more seasoned talents who primarily drive the film, they deliver on plenty of charisma, with leading man Robert Donat really standing out, not just with charisma that is particularly potent, but a human subtlety to layers that leaves Donat to firmly bond with his titular role, whose aging throughout the film is sold by a sense of gradually developing wisdom that Donat sells effortlessly. Whether he's charming by his own right or sharing sharp chemistry with his peers, Donat carries this film, though isn't the only one breathing color into the final product, for although this project was never to be too much, what it ultimately is is endearing, witty and generally entertaining, even though it's not especially memorable.

When it is finally time to say goodbye, you leave behind a film with slow spells that emphasize storytelling aimlessness, which emphasizes natural shortcomings within this thin story concept, which ultimately renders the final product kind of forgettable underwhelming, but not so much so that it doesn't keep you going during its course, as there is enough decency within Richard Addinsell's score, charming heart within James Hilton's story, wit within R. C. Sherriff's, Claudine West's and Eric Maschwitz's script, and charisma within the performances - especially that of thoroughly convincing leading man Robert Donat - for Sam Woods' "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" to stand as a decent, if somewhat messy charmer of a study on the life, times and lessons learned by an educator.

2.5/5 - Fair
½ June 6, 2013
One of the most beautiful films ever committed to celluloid. Donat's performance is one for the ages. To think that we was able to win Best Actor in 1939 -- the greatest year in cinema history -- is astounding. Charles Edward Chipping is one of my all-time favourite characters in filmdom. It's like a time capsule, beginning in the 19th century & ending in the 1930s, when it was made. The picture was able to capture a unique moment that couldn't be recreated if we tried. It is a powerfully moving & tender piece. Loved watching Mr. Chips grow, and come to find love as well as purpose in his relationships with his boys. It hasn't received the accolades of the other 1939 masterpieces... but it's certainly a reason the year was so distinguished. Kleenex: mandatory.
March 21, 2013
A fantastic film. Robert Donat and Greer Garson do a wonderful job and really bring this tale to live. A film worth watching over and over again.
March 4, 2013
Robert Donat at the peak of his skills... as moving today as it was upon its premiere.
February 16, 2013
It is a sweet story but this version is not half as good as the 1969 British offering.
½ September 24, 2012
This version of Mr Chips, the original, is regarded as the classic, but I prefer the 1969 version, starring Peter O'Toole and Petula Clark. Similar plot to both, though the 1969 tweaked the events in Mr Chips' life, to match world history.

The 1939 version is good, and particularly emotional, especially towards the end. However, it does feel stuffy and stiff. That may just be a function of the era in which it was made and the era it was portraying.

One plus the 1939 version has over the 1969 one is that it isn't a musical, but then that may just be me - I generally don't like musicals!

Performances are OK. Greer Garson shines as Katherine and deserved her Best Actress Oscar nomination. However, I don't know how Robert Donat got the Best Actor Oscar. His performance is OK, but not brilliant. I often found him a bit irritating, in fact. Overly wooden (though his character was such). Yet he managed to beat out Clarke Gable's performance in Gone with the Wind and James Stewart's in Mr Smith Goes to Washington...

Worth seeing, but if you have to choose, see the 1969 version instead.
½ September 5, 2012
Very surprised how much I liked this movie........
August 6, 2012
Socially stiff Mr Chipping (Donat) has devoted his life to teaching "his boys". On holiday, he more than meets his match in his perfect opposite played by Greer Garson. They fall in love, marry, and she returns with him to Brookfield. They quickly become the social center of the school where she helps him to become the beloved "Mr Chips" to generations of students. This is a classic movie with a wonderful story arc, told in flashback and set in and around WWII.
July 21, 2012
I did find this a bit dull some of the time, but the presence of the charismatic older Mr Chips really made it worth watching. My favourite scene was when Mr Chips was trapped on the hill in the mist in Austria, where he met the love of his life Katherine.
½ April 25, 2012
Robert Donat plays an old man too well. Greer Garson was great, though she's not in it much. It definitely had the most creepy ending with the ghost boy saying with a smile: "Goodbye, Mr. Chips." An okay film for its depressing-feel, especially towards the end.
April 13, 2012
To this day i have never cryed harder in a movie...
½ March 26, 2012
Robert Donat is great. An all around great teacher movie. Yes, this is better than Kurosawa's "Madadayo."
January 9, 2012
Mr. Chips (Robert Donat) is an instructor at a boy school in England and has been there for around fifty years. One day, he falls into a sleep, of which a dream emerges recalling the days he started at the school. Chip's journey as instructor started quite tumultuous, with his students disliking him and behaving poorly and his colleagues not happy with his presence. However, everyone begins to grow on his charming attitude and they become fond of him. Another part of the story has him meeting his future wife (Greer Garson) in the rough mountain terrain of Austria and falling love. Though I would have probably asked for Best Actor to have gone to Clark Gable for "Gone With the Wind," Donat puts on a very solid performance in a nice film, that balances both accomplishment and sadness. Fairly involving and quite likeable. Garson's performance, though small, is also good.
½ December 20, 2011
One of those all-time greats, Robert Donat was superb as where the other main cast members, anyone whose thought of becoming a teacher needs to see this as a must :)
November 28, 2011
Good old Mr. Chips has been teaching at the Brookfield public school for several hundred years, or so the boys say. In "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", we're taken on a journey back through those several hundred years. Actually, Mr. Chips was the latin teacher from 1870 to 1918, with several extra years tacked on for good measure. The film begins in 1933, with the elderly Chippings reminscing about his first day at Brookfield. From there, we go through the next several decades, learning of Chips' life, love, and marriage to Katherine (Greer Garson). Much like for Chips himself, the film shows years as they begin to fly by in a blur, as new boys replace old boys, and new faces look the same as their fathers and grandfathers before them, in particular, little Colley, as played by Terry Kilburn (John Colley, Peter Colley, Peter Colley II, Peter Colley III). Yes, apparently Mr. Chips taught four generations of Colleys. Goodbye, Mr. Chips wants to say something profound about the past, about the futility of war and the precious briefness of life, and sometimes succeeds in doing so quite admirably. But it's Robert Donat's through-the-years portrayal of Mr. Chips that truly makes the film stand out (in fact, Donat won the oscar that year, beating out such other noteables as Gone With The Wind's Clark Gable and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington's Jimmy Stewart). Mr. Chips might have been a rather one-dimensional character without the warmth Donat brought to his performance. While the plot itself is fairly predictable, and certain stretches of time are given short change compared to others, the film still manages to the heart after all these years.
Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
November 28, 2011
Good old Mr. Chips has been teaching at the Brookfield public school for several hundred years, or so the boys say. In "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", we're taken on a journey back through those several hundred years. Actually, Mr. Chips was the latin teacher from 1870 to 1918, with several extra years tacked on for good measure. The film begins in 1933, with the elderly Chippings reminscing about his first day at Brookfield. From there, we go through the next several decades, learning of Chips' life, love, and marriage to Katherine (Greer Garson). Much like for Chips himself, the film shows years as they begin to fly by in a blur, as new boys replace old boys, and new faces look the same as their fathers and grandfathers before them, in particular, little Colley, as played by Terry Kilburn (John Colley, Peter Colley, Peter Colley II, Peter Colley III). Yes, apparently Mr. Chips taught four generations of Colleys. Goodbye, Mr. Chips wants to say something profound about the past, about the futility of war and the precious briefness of life, and sometimes succeeds in doing so quite admirably. But it's Robert Donat's through-the-years portrayal of Mr. Chips that truly makes the film stand out (in fact, Donat won the oscar that year, beating out such other noteables as Gone With The Wind's Clark Gable and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington's Jimmy Stewart). Mr. Chips might have been a rather one-dimensional character without the warmth Donat brought to his performance. While the plot itself is fairly predictable, and certain stretches of time are given short change compared to others, the film still manages to the heart after all these years.
November 21, 2011
Oscar winning performance by the lesser known by the public than he should be Robert Donat. Great story and one of the many all time greats from 1939.
August 18, 2011
Very good movie! Mr. Chipping (Donat) is an old-school teacher in his 80's, who one night falls asleep and recalls his past. He started teaching in 1870, at the age of 22, and was strict and not well liked by his students. Then he met Katherine Ellis (Garson), who he then marries. She teaches him how to be warm, and in the long run helps his teaching, despite their ill-fated marriage. Over the course of this movie, Mr. Chips goes through more and more tragedies, but gets stronger each step of the way. "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" has often been considered one of Britains best movies, so because of that, I had to see it. 1939 is also widely considered to be the best year in movies, and this is usually one that seems to go in that list that makes up the opinion. This film is definitely the definition of a inspiring movie. Mr. Chipping proves to us that no matter what, its not impossible to stay strong, but that aspect would not have been so good without the excellent acting of Robert Donat. This is post "The 39 Steps", and having seen him in that, I can really say it was quite a transformation. For much of the movie, he portrays an elderly man, and though sometimes it can be corny, once you see him in the role, you can't picture anyone else. Mr. Chips is so great, and for once Hollywood did not make a character that was unrealistic. Greer Garson also does a great job in her fascinating, yet short lived role. This was actually her first movie, and was a huge success, and many other actresses had similar happenings, like Audrey Hepburn and Lauren Bacall, which happened to few actors at the time. Garson does a fine job, and is simply wonderful in her soft hearted, sweet portrayal, and really makes Katherine Ellis seem like a perfect person. Her and Donat together are a very inspiring team, and together make this movie magical. "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" is a very nice movie that is ageless.
July 27, 2011
So good, it came out with 2 remakes!
½ November 10, 2010
Rather overly sentimental character study of an English prep school teacher who becomes a school institution over a 60 year career. At the end, he reflects on his life (in flashback). Underscored by a genuinely humanistic outlook (and lamenting the WWI years on the eve of WWII), the film is easy to take and to like and well played by then 34-year-old Robert Donat.
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