Hooray! Warner has delivered the original widescreen restored road show version of the film. The extras, unfortunately, are just trailers and, sadly there is no commentary (especially as Petula Clark, Peter O'Toole and Leslie Bricusse are all still around and have a well-known fondness for this project). The visuals look a bit soft -but they were shot that way, mostly with long lenses on a fast film stock.
"Goodbye, Mr. Chips" is a lovely, sentimental story of a quiet, some might say even ordinary, man.
Producer Arthur P. Jacobs put the production in the hands of first time directory Herbert Ross (later to direct "The Goodbye Girl " and just about every Neil Simon movie in the 70's and 80's). Ross wanted to incorporate the way songs were used in films like "The Graduate" and" Easy Rider"; as counterpoint and commentary on the action, rather than being sung on screen. As with most first time directors the end results are mixed - but what's good is very good indeed.
The rock solid core of the movie is Peter O'Toole's portrayal of schoolmaster Arthur Chipping. Just watch his final speech as headmaster at the end of the movie: a man slowed by advanced age (in his 70's?) but mentally facile; characteristically stoic but capable of deep emotion. Then remind yourself: this part is being played by a 36-year-old Irishman, who a year earlier was the rowdy, forceful King Henry II in "Lion in Winter" . The proper, introverted Mr. Chipping is a world away from that lusty king - but always vividly real.
Petula Clark contributes an earthy emotional counterpoint to Chips stuffiness. She's in great voice and completely convincing as the stage star who's sampled the good life and found it wanting. The script doesn't do her any favors in slathering on the whole "a real woman gives up her career and finds fulfillment in the love of her man" theme . But Pet makes me believe that the choices are on her terms.
And what can you say about Sian Phillips scenery-chewing cameo as a 1920's stage vamp, Ursula Mossbank? At their last leave taking, she calls out over her shoulder as she heads out the door, "Well I'll see you tomorrow, or next week, or in heaven or somewhere...". Chips replies, "In heaven, certainly", smiling at Kathrine.
The music: I love "Walk Through the World", "Schooldays", "Fill the World With Love" and the moody "Where Did My Childhood Go". And I can't step off a plane at Heathrow without the catchy lyrics to "London is London" spinning in my head. On the other hand, I can definitely live without "The Sky Smiled". To make matters worse, Ross zooms in and out throughout this number like a first-time father with a new camcorder. Even so, John Williams orchestrates and scores the film with the dramatic style he would later bring to his own scores in the next decade.
Backstage note: Some have asked, "Why make a musical of Goodby, Mr. Chips?" Arthur P. Jacobs' answer in 1964 was this: Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews directed by Vincent Minnelli with a score by Andre Previn. But finding the right format and score was difficult, with Previn writing and discarding songs. Jacobs had to go forward with other projects ("Dr. Doolittle" and "Planet of the Apes") and as a result he lost both his stars. Richard Burton stepped in, then Leslie Bricusse replaced Previn as composer. Petula Clark signed on. Burton out; Peter O'Toole in. And I, for one, couldn't be happier that he took up the part.
Fan note: Did you know that there is a 3 CD set of the entire score (songs and background music) PLUS the contents of the original soundtrack LP PLUS outtakes, alternate versions, and interviews with Leslie Bricusse and the cast: [[ASIN:B000FI9U6M Goodbye, Mr. Chips]] If Amazon doesn't have it then Google for it.