Charles Chipping (Robert Donat)
By the time the movie reaches the sentimental farewell of the title, Charles “Mr. Chips” Chipping is his school’s headmaster, having earned the respect and admiration of 60 years’ worth of Englsh school boys. But ’twas not always thus.
We get to see Chips evolve over his entire career, from an ineffectual wuss on his first day, to a stern disciplinarian whose rigidity makes him unpopular, to a more warm and open man (thanks to his surprising marriage to a charming younger woman), to an admired veteran whose legacy of enriching young lives is secure. Along the way, plenty of tears are jerked, but this is stiff-upper-lip Britain, so there’ll be none of that weepy nonsense, if you please.
Chips turned out to be the role of Donat’s career, earning him an upset Oscar for Best Actor over Clark Gable in Gone With the Wind, Laurence Olivier in Wuthering Heights, and James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. If we don’t remember Donat’s performance today with the same vividness and affection as the other three, well, teachers are always underappreciated.
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