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Posts Tagged ‘Max Staefel’

Goodbye, Mr. Chips”  (1934©)  —  book review
Like a dog with a fresh bone, sometimes I find it hard to let go…
Over this last weekend, I indulged my OCD and read the short novel “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1934©), written by James Hilton.  Amazon says the paperback is seventy pages, but there are eighteen chapters and most seem less than a full page long.  I read the novella in under two hours.  The book is in public domain, so you can download it and read it for free.
The book has a number of adaptations, including movies made in 1939 (a drama) and 1969 (a musical – review here), a TV series from 1984 (BBC) and a TV movie from 2002 (ITV).  More on these later…  (OCD remember).
The author, James Hilton was the son of a school headmaster and he attended a public boarding school.  Note: a “public” school in England is a “private” school in the U.S. Hilton is said to have based the work on both his father and a master (“teacher / instructor”) at his own school (although it is believed to be mostly based on the teacher at the school he attended).
The main character of the novel and movies, Mr. Chipping, spends the majority of his life (50-plus years) teaching Latin (and Greek) at a single school (Brookfield School) and the book is a reminiscence of his time there.  There are two notable occurrences: one is the meeting of a best-friend Herr (Max) Staefel, the school’s German language teacher and the second is a chance meeting with a young lady who ultimately becomes his wife.  The “shock” of the wedding is not just the marriage of a “confirmed” bachelor, but that the bride is considerably younger than the groom (on the order of 23 years) AND she is as attractive as he is staid.  The book is unclear how long they are wed (roughly one year to eighteen months) as she passes away in childbirth (on 1 April – “April Fool’s Day”).  Chipping stays long enough at the school that he instructs four generations of one family and, on his deathbed, only his housemaid is aware that he was ever married (over thirty years before the death scene).  This results in the famous lines that it was a shame he never had any sons of his own who might have attended the school.  Chipping’s dying response is that indeed he did, thousands of them – and all boys.
Final recommendation: very highly recommended!  I would recommend reading this very short book before viewing any of the four adaptations, but I have seen all of them (three of them in the last week) and you won’t be put off by reversing my call.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1984)  —  TV series review
This version of the novella was on the BBC in six half-hour episodes (roughly three hours run time) and starred Roy Marsden as Chipping and Jill Meager as his wife.  I am fairly certain this is the first version I saw of the adaptations as I have a distinct memory of the cricket scene which appears in the this version.  I believe I saw this version on PBS, and probably first viewed it with my new (British) wife in 1985, the summer after we married.  The series is available on YouTube, which is where I watched it this weekend.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  As stated above, this was my first exposure to the “Chips” story, so it has a special place in my heart / memory.  I will add this version is closer to the actual time frame depicted in the book and the first (1939) movie version.  It also is much closer to being an anti-war movie than the book or other adaptations.  Finally, in this version, Katherine (Bridges) Chipping is an unemployed governess living with her aunt in London, as opposed to the stage singer / dancer portrayed in the 1969 musical adaptation.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (2002)  —  TV movie review
Staring Martin Clunes (of Doc Martin fame) as Mr. Chipping and Victoria Hamilton as Katherine (Bridges) Chipping.  This version appeared on ITV and Masterpiece Theater as a two hour “TV movie”.  I watched it on YouTube where it runs as six episodes of approximately 15 min.  This version is not only an anti-war movie, it is also anti-bullying.  It goes out of its way to critique the hazing of new students and bullying of the younger and smaller students by the bigger, older and / or wealthier students.
At first I found it difficult to get past the “Doc Martin” typecast I have for Clunes.  I didn’t care for his aging (special effects / makeup work) as it looked like glued on rubber pieces.  It was more than halfway through, before I could finally see the role and not the actor in the role.  I have a feeling that was as much me as Clunes, though.  Also, the YouTube version I was watching lacked the start of the movie, so I was left wondering if any other parts had been cut out / off.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  If this (YouTube version) is the only version you can find, it is good enough for you grasp and enjoy the movie.  Clunes ends up convincing as Chips and Hamilton is equal to the role of Katherine.  She is not nearly as “young beauty” as Meager or as winning as Clark (in the 1969 musical), but, in her own way, I felt she owned the role – particularly in her telling of the tale of the “sun vs wind wager”.
So, all in all, my reading and three viewings of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” have been very enjoyable.  Each offered a slightly different aspect of what is considered a “classic” English tale and have hi-lighted (to me) what a true gem the story remains – even eighty years on (and counting).  I look forward to watching the 1939 version as soon as I can find it and to re-watching the others when they eventually become generally available (instead of broken up on YouTube).
* The post title is my weak attempt at a Latin translation of: “Goodbye Again, Three Times“.
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Goodbye, Mr. Chips”  (1969)  —  movie review
This movie is a musical adaptation of the novel about the life of a schoolteacher, Mr. Chipping, written by the James Hilton.  The book was first adapted into movie form back in 1939 (also a great movie).  This version is a modification of both the novel and the original version.  It’s placed later in history – around World War II instead of WWI; Chipping is married longer; meets his wife differently; and, it’s a musical (instead of a “normal” drama / romance movie).  I have not read the novel, but I have seen the 1939 version several times before.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to find it somewhere and watch it again so I can do a review from a fresh viewing.  This was my first viewing of this movie!
Mr. Chipping is a staid and stern housemaster at an English public school.  (That’s a “private” school to those of us in the U.S.)  The boarding school is where the upper crust of society send their boys to learn to be proper British gentlemen.  Chipping teaches Latin and Greek.  He gets talked into going to a play to see the future bride of a friend.  The lady doesn’t realize this is the “arrangement”.  Chipping unknowingly embarrasses himself and his friend.   Chipping goes on his holiday (vacation) to Pompeii, where he coincidentally meets the lady again.  As he is an expert on Greece, she asks him to be her tour guide for the day – which he does.  They hit it off and she falls in love with him (and he her).  Blah, blah, blah.   Mild comedy and laughter ensues.  They marry and she returns to school with him.  They become popular at the school.  She dies during the war.  He spends the remaining years of his life at the school.
The movie stars Peter O’Toole as Arthur Chipping (“Mr. Chips”), Petula Clark as Katherine Bridges / Chipping, Michael Redgrave as The Headmaster, George Baker as Lord Sutterwick (the wealthy donor who is at odds with Chipping due to his own previously sordid background), Siân Phillips as Ursula Mossbank (a famous actress who has a “background” with Lord Sutterwick), and Michael Bryant as Max Staefel (a German teacher who “must” return to Germany).  Phillips is “simply marvelous” in her take on being a famous actress.  Bryant is also impressive in his subtle expressions.  In fact, I repeated several scenes just to re-watch his facial reactions.
So, is this movie any good?  Does it work as a musical?  And, did I enjoy a rom-com musical?  Yes.  Mostly yes.  Emphatically yes!  I know I’ve seen Peter O’Toole in other roles (obviously “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Becket“), but I really think this is my new favorite role for him.  He was nominated for the Oscar and a Golden Glove for Best Actor for this role.  One of his eight Oscar nominations for Best Actor.  (He holds the lifetime record for nominations without a win.)  Interestingly, his wife (Siân Phillips) at the time was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her role (Mossbank).  He won the Golden Glove.  She did not.
As a musical, the movie is not “great” – in my opinion.  With the exception of “Fill the World With Love” (see videos below) only a couple of the other songs were entertaining, let alone memorable.  This is partly why the movie was panned by the critics on its release.  In fact, I understand several of the songs were removed from the theatrical release because initial audience reviews were so poor.  The songs have been re-added for the “TCM” version which I watched.  The result is the movie is a “classic” movie with an introduction, intermission and exit production which add almost 15 minutes to the viewing time.  The total run time I watched was over the 2hrs 35min of the “official” run time.  But, it is worth it!!
Final recommendation:  VERY highly recommended.  While at one level, this is the story of one man’s struggle with the apparent mediocrity of his life, at a more profound level it is a love story – personal (husband and wife) and general (Chippings love for knowledge, teaching, manners and character).  I am sure some will find this a bit of a “chic flick” and a tear-jerker.  I did not find it the former.  I did find it the latter.  But then, I often find movies about character and integrity (and love stories) to be tear-jerkers.  So, get the Kleenex ready.
As a “bonus” for this review I am including two videos.  The first two verses of this song are performed by: Petula Clark (from the 1969 musical: “Goodbye, Mr. Chips”).  The last verse is performed by Peter O’Toole and is slightly different from the “actual” lyrics as he is singing to his deceased wife at the end of the film.  (Listen for the “Shhsh” and watch for Bryant / Staefel’s expression during Clark’s singing.  Priceless!!)
I sang this song many times back in my senior year of high school.  It was the first year of our high school choir – and they were taking anyone who was willing to volunteer to sing in public.  LOL.  I did not know the song was only a few years old.  Nor did I know it came from a movie / musical.  But then, I had not seen either version of this movie – 1939 or 1969.  I think I’m better for now having seen both.  If you can find them, I highly recommend them!
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