by Nina Bennett
“Goodbye, Mr. Chips” is, above all, a film of very great visual beauty. The scenery – of whatever kind – is continually shown to be quiet and lovely. And this strikes the keynote of the entire production.
This movie announced itself as a musical, and so it is – but definitely not in the usual sense. There is only one episode that could possibly be called a typical production number. The rest of the music is simply not noticeable, and serves merely as a series of highly pleasant sounds occurring every now and then.
In fact, everything is background except for two elements: the characters of Mr. Chiping and his music hall bride, Katharine. The former is played stunningly by Peter O’Toole – his each and every word, it seems, is utterly right, and he builds up a living person with unearthly skill. His farewell scene is quite literally unforgettable.
Petula Clark, surprisingly enough, displays considerable dramatic talent, and succeeds in making Katherine a very plausible person.
What one is left with is this: the uncannily real impression that one has actually met and grown to love two living human beings, existing in a consistent world all their own that still parallels with ours in some uncomfortable ways.
This sensation is a warm and lasting one – satisfying, and somehow is rather comforting. In itself, it is an important achievement; and it makes “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” well worth seeing.