Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)

Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Greer Garson and Robert Donat

'Goodbye, Mr. Chips' is a classic romantic drama movie made in MGM's British studios in 1939, directed by Sam Wood and starring Robert Donat and Greer Garson. The movie was based on the novel of the same name by James Hilton first published in 1934 which was based on the author's real life experiences at an elite British public school. Part of the film was filmed at a real English Public School. ReptonSchool where students stayed on during the school holidays to take part in the film as authentic extras.

The film was a huge box office success and was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. In the year of 'Gone With the Wind' it lost out in all categories except Best Actor where Robert Donat beat Clarke Gable's Rhett Butler to the Oscar.


The film tells, in flashback, the story of a teacher's life in an upper class English Public School. Starting in the 1920's with the 83 year old Mr Chipping (nicknamed "Mr. Chips") played by Robert Donat, now retired, but who still lives on the school grounds, the story takes us back to 1870 when he first started at the school as a nervous and inexperienced teacher. For the rest of the film we follow his journey through various episodes in his life as seen through his own eyes.

Basically a kind-hearted man Chips at first has to take an unnaturally harsh line with his pupils to prevent them walking all over him. His sternness is just a facade but he is only able to shake it off when, on a walking holiday, he meets Katherine Ellis, played by Greer Garson, and falls in love with her. She helps his natural kindness to come to the fore and he becomes a better teacher, much loved by his pupils. He eventually achieves his life's ambition of becoming headmaster of the school 'Goodbye, Mr. Chips' is a beautifully understated movie with a captivating story line, beautifully acted and with a rare charm and sentimentality. An absolute treat.

Main Cast

Robert Donat ... Mr. Chips
Greer Garson ... Katherine Ellis
Terry Kilburn ... John Colley / Peter Colley I / Peter Colley II / Peter Colley III
John Mills ... Peter Colley - as a Young Man
Paul Henreid ... Staefel
Judith Furse ... Flora
Lyn Harding ... Wetherby
Milton Rosmer ... Chatteris
Frederick Leister ... Marsham
Louise Hampton ... Mrs. Wickett
Austin Trevor ... Ralston
David Tree ... Jackson
Edmund Breon ... Colonel Morgan
Jill Furse ... Helen Colley
Scott Sunderland ... Sir John Colley

The movie belongs to Robert Donat, whose character ages 63 years from a young man to an 83 year old during the course of the film. Donat only made 20 films during his career, which was cut short by ill health (he died aged just 53 years.) Born in England, he made his mark in Hitchcock's 'The Thirty Nine Steps in 1935, then received his first Best Actor Academy Award nomination in 1938 for 'The Citadel'. He deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Chips and for the great skill he shows in subtly changing his voice and mannerisms to suit the different ages of his character.

Greer Garson made her film debut in 'Goodbye Mr Chips' after frustrating MGM by wisely waiting for the right movie before she began her film career. She had already had a successful stage career in England before being tempted to go to Hollywood by Louis B Mayer. She plays the beautiful and loyal wife who sees the warmth and compassion beneath the shyness and outward formality of Chips. She brings out his strengths and completely changes his life. Her performance is excellent and well worthy of her Best Actress Oscar nomination.


Director ... Sam Wood
Producer ... Victor Saville
Screenplay ... R. C. Sherriff, Claudine West and Eric Maschwitz
Based on ... the novel, Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
Music ... Richard Addinsell
Cinematography ... Freddie Young
Distribution Company ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date ... May 15, 1939
Running time ... 114 minutes

Academy Awards

One Win:
Best Actor ... Robert Donat

Six Unsuccessful Nominations:
Best Picture ... Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Best Directot ... Sam Wood
Best Actress ... Greer Garson
Best Writing, Screenplay ... R. C. Sherriff, Claudine West and Eric Maschwitz
Best Film Editing ... Charles Frend
Best Sound Recording ... A. W. Watkins