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GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (1939)

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A May-September romance and a teacher’s love of his students make for an unforgettable film, now celebrating its 80th anniversary. The late Irving G. Thalberg had picked up the rights to British writer James Hilton’s novel for MGM, and Anglophile studio head Louis B. Mayer kept it going following Thalberg’s untimely death. After the success of The Citadel (1938), an earlier production from MGM-British Studios at Denham Film Studios, Mayer cast that film’s leading man, Robert Donat, to play Charles “Chips” Chipping. The actor’s transition from strict 25-year-old Latin teacher to beloved 88-year-old former headmaster won him the Oscar for Best Actor. To play his young wife, Kathy, the studio cast Greer Garson, an English actress Mayer had discovered two years earlier. It was her first role at the studio after years of turning down every role they had offered her, and it made her a star. With its idyllic depiction of English academic life and scenes of Chips keeping the school together during World War I air raids, the picture helped generate good will for Great Britain at the start of World War II. Its touching love story and rampant sentimentality made the film the biggest hit of MGM’s British productions, and it remains one of the studio’s most beloved films. (d. Sam Wood, 114m, 35mm)

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