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Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939 film): Wikis


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Goodbye, Mr. Chips

Original film poster
Directed by Sam Wood
Produced by Victor Saville
Written by R. C. Sherriff
Claudine West
Eric Maschwitz
James Hilton (novel)
Starring Robert Donat
Greer Garson
Terry Kilburn
Paul Henreid
John Mills
Music by Richard Addinsell
Cinematography Freddie Young
Editing by Charles Frend
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) 15 May 1939
Running time 114 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a 1939 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, 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. Back at home he falls asleep (and his 58-year career is related in flashback).

When 25-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. Realising he is not good at his profession, he glumly ponders his future. However, the German teacher, Max Staefel, saves him from despair by taking him on holiday to his native Austria. While mountain climbing, Chipping "rescues" Kathy Ellis (even though she did not actually need to be saved). Kathy is a feisty English suffragette on a cycling holiday. They meet again in Vienna and dance to the Blue Danube Waltz. This piece of music is used as a leitmotif, symbolising Chipping's love for her. Max points out that the Danube River appears blue, but only to those who are in love. As Chipping looks at the river, he notices 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, 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."


  • 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 pupils 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)
  • David Tree as Jackson


The film was shot at Repton School and Denham Film Studios.

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 Yes check.svgY Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (Victor Saville, producer)
Winner was Gone with the Wind (Selznick International Pictures (David O. Selznick, producer))
Best Director Yes check.svgY Sam Wood
Winner was Victor FlemingGone with the Wind
Best Actor Yes check.svgY Robert Donat
Best Actress Yes check.svgY Greer Garson
Winner was Vivien LeighGone with the Wind
Best Writing, Screenplay Yes check.svgY R. C. Sherriff, Claudine West, Eric Maschwitz
Winner was Sidney HowardGone with the Wind
Best Film Editing Yes check.svgY Charles Frend
Winner was Hal C. Kern and James E. Mewcom – Gone with the Wind
Best Sound, Recording Yes check.svgY A.W. Watkins
Winner was Bernard B. Brown – When Tomorrow Comes

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