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Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) is a British film based on the novel of the same name by James Hilton. It was directed by Sam Wood, and starred Robert Donat, Greer Garson, Terry Kilburn, John Mills and Paul Henreid. The screenplay was adapted from the novel by R. C. Sherriff, Claudine West and Eric Maschwitz.

The film was voted the 72nd greatest British film ever in the BFI Top 100 British films poll.


In 1933, Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat), a retired schoolteacher of 85, is kept home by a cold. Managing to arrive late, despite doctor's orders he finds the assembly hall locked. He is disturbed by a new boy, who is being pranked by older pupils; realising what has happened to the boy, he invites him in and asks if he is a new boy and then tells him he was once new as well. Back at home he falls asleep (and his 58-year career is related in flashback).

When 22-year-old Charles Edward Chipping first arrives as a Latin teacher to Brookfield Public School in 1870, he becomes a target of many practical jokes. He reacts by imposing strict discipline in his classroom, making him respected, but disliked. His unpopularity and stiffness cost him a promotion to housemaster in 1888.

Realising he is not good at his profession, he glumly ponders his future. However, the German teacher, Max Staefel (Paul Henreid), saves him from despair by taking him on holiday to his native Austriamarker. While mountain climbing, Chipping "rescues" Kathy Ellis (Greer Garson) (even though she did not actually need to be saved). Kathy is a feisty English suffragette on a cycling holiday. They meet again in Viennamarker and dance to the Blue Danube Waltz. This piece of music is used as a leitmotif, symbolising Chipping's love for her. Even though she is considerably younger and livelier than he, she loves and marries him. They return to England, where Kathy takes up residence at the school, conquering everyone with her personal warmth.

During their tragically short marriage (she dies in childbirth, along with their baby), she brings 'Mr. 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 students; he teaches the sons and grandsons of many of his earlier pupils.

Under some pressure from a more 'modern' headmaster, Chips retires in 1913 at age 65, but is summoned back to serve as interim headmaster, because of the shortage of teachers resulting from World War I. 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 construing 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 battle. Upon finding out that Max Staefel has died fighting on the German side, Chips, symbolising the decency being consumed by the slaughter, reads his name out in chapel.

He retires permanently in 1918: he awakes in 1933. He is on his deathbed when he overhears his friends talking about him. He responds, "I thought you said it was a pity... pity I never had children. But you're wrong. I have thousands of them ... thousands of them ... and all boys."

Awards and nominations

The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards for Outstanding Production, Best Director, Actor, Actress, Best Writing, Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound. It was up against Gone with the Wind in all seven categories; Robert Donat won for Best Actor, beating out Clark Gable, but Goodbye, Mr. Chips lost to Gone With the Wind in five of the six remaining categories. (Best Sound went to the otherwise undistinguished When Tomorrow Comes).

Award Won Nomination Winner
Outstanding Production Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Victor Saville, producer)
Winner was Gone with the Wind (Selznick International Pictures (David O.

Selznick, producer))
Best Director Sam Wood
Winner was Victor FlemingGone with the Wind
Best Actor Robert Donat
Best Actress Greer Garson
Winner was Vivien LeighGone with the Wind
Best Writing, Screenplay R. C. Sherriff, Claudine West, Eric Maschwitz
Winner was Sidney HowardGone with the Wind
Best Film Editing Charles Frend
Winner was Hal C.

Kern and James E.

MewcomGone with the Wind
Best Sound, Recording A.W. Watkins
Winner was Bernard B.

BrownWhen Tomorrow Comes


  • Robert Donat as Mr. Chips. The 34-year-old Donat ages 63 years (1870-1933) over the course of the film. He remarked: "As soon as I put the moustache on, I felt the part, even if I did look like a great airedale come out of a puddle."
  • Greer Garson as Katherine. Garson was initially offered a contract for MGM in 1937, but refused all the minor parts she was offered until she was given this role.
  • Lyn Harding as Wetherby, headmaster of Brookfield when Chips first arrives
  • Paul Henreid as Max Staeffel, the German master
  • Terry Kilburn as John Colley, Peter Colley I, II and III, several generations of students from the same family taught by Mr. Chips
  • John Mills as Peter Colley as an adult
  • Scott Sunderland as Sir John Colley
  • David Croft as Perkins - Greengrocer's boy (uncredited)


The film was shot at Repton Schoolmarker and Denham Film Studios.
  • source IMDB and Repton School

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