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USA 1969
Directed by
Herbert Ross
151 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Goodbye, Mr Chips (1969)

It is hard to understand who at MGM greenlighted this musical remake of the tradition-celebrating 1939 classic, particularly at the height of the counter-cultural 60s (it was released a year after Lindsay Anderson's ...if) although perhaps the idea of re-doing it as a musical had some iconoclastic frisson. Herbert Ross's debut feature, scripted by Terrence Rattigan, with music by Leslie Bricusse and John Williams, whilst certainly lacking the tonal integrity, and no doubt readily dismissed by fans of the Sam Wood original, is at least an interesting exercise that despite an unpromising first third builds quite a degree of emotional impact, largely due to Peter O'Toole's Oscar-nominated performance in the lead.

In a role originally slated for Rex Harrison and then Richard Burton who pulled out after the female lead was given to Petula Clark (replacing Lee Remick, who in turn had replaced Samantha Eggar), fresh from her success with Finian's Rainbow (1968), O'Toole, although no singer, is characteristically engaging and is particularly successful in portraying the old fuddy-duddy's declining years. Clark on the other hand, although bringing a fine voice to the proceedings, is no Greer Garson (the original Katherine Bridges/Chipping) and the script's considerable liberties with the original story, making of her a loose-living London soubrette is far from convincing although this inappropriateness is removed once she settles down into her life as a schoolteacher's wife.

Arguably the film might have worked better as a straight re-make as the intermittent lyrical outbreaks, very much reminiscent of Jacques Demy's style of using songs to portray the character's thoughts, distracts from the dominant sentimentally nostalgic mood of the film. Nothwithstanding, for devotees of the film musical at least, this is a curio worth catching.




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