Monday, May 21, 2012

~Movie Mondays - To Sir, With Love~

Movie Title: To Sir, With Love
Cast: Sidney Poitier, Judy Geeson, Christian Roberts
Director: James Clavell
Writer: E.R. Braithwaite (novel), James Clavell (screenplay)
Release Date: June 14, 1967
Run Time: 105 minutes
Color: Color (Technicolor)
Rating:  Unrated

Tagline: A story as fresh as the girls in their minis. . .and as cool as their teacher had to be!


Idealistic engineer-trainee and his experiences in teaching a group of rambunctious white high school students from the slums of London's East End.


If the Godfather is the godfather of all mob movies, then "To Sir, With Love" is the godfather of all movies chronicling the impact of a teacher on the lives of his/her students. 

I first watched "To Sir, With Love" when I was 13 years old, because it was one of my father's favorite movies. He said it was with that movie, that he began to admire the great actor Sidney Poitier. Funny thing is, that's the very movie that made me fall in love with him too. The reason? It's simple. He portrays Michael Thackeray, an engineer who takes up teaching as a stop-gap between jobs. He finds himself teaching a rambunctious and ill-behaved set of children, surrounded by poverty and hardships, who make their resentment for their educators very apparent.Michael Thackeray comes into their lives like a fresh summer breeze, and begins to slowly teach them self-respect, self-control and prepares them for adulthood. His refusal to treat his students as uncouth and misfit children forces them to re-evaluate themselves, and try to conduct themselves in a way that emulates their beloved teacher. 

To most, this movie about a black teacher teaching a bunch of white, unruly, children may just seem cliche given that there have been plenty of movies since then, on the subject. Or even if you were to take the aspect of race and class out of it, there have been many movies about teachers greatly impacting the lives of their students. But keep in mind, this movie was made in a different time...a time before all those other movies...a time when such a movie was considered radical, and was unique in every way. The beauty of this movie is that there are a lot of wonderful teachable moments, and it is magical watching the reactions of the students as they come to their respective epiphanies and realizations. We see Mr. Thackeray, Sir, deal with the surly and stiff-necked rebel of the class, his sensitive way of dealing with the girl in his class who has a crush on him, his reactions to an inappropriate conversation that is designed at provocation, and his dismissal of the off-colored remarks of some of his colleagues. As their teacher molds them, and polishes them, the emergence of children as blossoming young adults displaying intelligence, affection and respect is an absolute marvel to watch. That transformation is the proof that nurturing love and support, rather than reprimanding without pause to reflect, are the way to affect change in a young person's mind. Teach them to respect themselves, and you will automatically garner their respect.

Sidney Poitier is absolutely brilliant in this novel. Staying true to his actual roots, he appears to be a man from the Caribbean islands, and his eloquent manner of speaking, impeccable dressing and polished manners at first alienate him from his students, but soon becomes an example for them. For me, personally, it is an extremely emotional movie, and it made me learn a lot about myself as a teenager, and also about life. It especially affects me because my mother has been an educator for well over 20 years now, and I am in complete awe of the way she interacts with her students. And now that I am a substitute teacher, I feel the same love and respect for my children, my students. There are a lot of lessons learned from this movie...but it is not just an educational movie, it is a thoroughly entertaining movie. Nowadays, people love watching Glee and see Will Schuester teach his glee club kids lessons in life, well...William Thackeray was the ORIGINAL Will Schuester. As a matter of fact, at the end of first season, when the New Directions pay a tribute to their teacher by singing "To Sir, With Love" - guess what? It is actually a song from the soundtrack of this movie, originally sung by Lulu who actually played the role of Barbara "Babbs" Pegg in the 1967 movie. Below are the two songs, the original and from Glee... both make me tear up, EVERY TIME, when I listen to them...and they are BOTH my favorites. How can you not love a song with lyrics like -

But how do you thank someone, 
who has taken you from crayons to perfume?
It isn't easy, but I'll try...

If you wanted the sky 
I would write across the sky in letters,
That would soar a thousand feet high,
To Sir, with Love

In closing, I'll just say, this is a movie that has an amazing, positive message and is a real pleasure to watch - try to get your hands on it, and watch it with your children, friends from school (and discuss who your favorite teacher was), or your significant other. MUST watch!!!! :)

To Sir, With Love - sung by Lulu
from "To Sir, With Love" (1967)

To Sir, With Love - sung by New Directions
from "Glee" Season 1, Episode 22
(Sorry, apparently, actual clips from Glee are not allowed to be posted online, other than by FOX)

*Trivia* - The film did so unexpectedly well in America that Columbia Pictures did market research to find out why so many people had gone to it. Their answer: Sidney Poitier.

1 comment:

  1. I did see this movie in childhood and absolutely love the song.