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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
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Release Date: January 24th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1939

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) - Warner Archive Collection

Overview -

A meticulously crafted adaptation of the beloved James Hilton novella, Goodbye, Mr. Chips remains a moving and inspiring portrait of a dedicated teacher who devoted his life to educating generations of British boys. Robert Donat delivers a bravura, Oscar-winning performance as the introverted yet passionate titular character and a luminous Greer Garson in her film debut provides stellar support. A lovely remastered transfer and solid audio distinguish Warner Archive's excellent Blu-ray presentation of this enduring and affecting classic. Highly Recommended.

Young schoolteacher Charles Edward Chipping (Robert Donat) imposes strict discipline on his young charges at a Victorian-era English public school, becoming a fearsome presence on the campus grounds. But the love of spirited young suffragette Katherine Ellis (Greer Garson) brings the Latin instructor out of his shell and makes him a beloved campus institution into the 20th century and through the shattering violence of World War I. The film is based on the best-selling novel by James Hilton.

Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Blu-ray Disc
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Aspect Ratio(s):
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono
English SDH
Special Features:
Theatrical Trailer
Release Date:
January 24th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take


Long before Dead Poets SocietyTo Sir, with LoveMr. Holland's Opus, and School of Rock, there was the original version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips. One of a flock of unforgettable films produced in 1939 - arguably the greatest year in Hollywood history - this impeccably mounted adaptation of James Hilton's beloved novella celebrates the largely solitary life of a dedicated teacher who faithfully and stoically served an all-boys boarding school in England between 1870 and 1933. Director Sam Wood's film also stands as the prototype for countless subsequent movies about passionate educators who made indelible impressions upon their students.

Nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Screenplay, Editing, and Sound, Goodbye, Mr. Chips lost all its categories to Gone with the Wind...except one. In what many still view as a major upset, Robert Donat's mild-mannered, introverted Mr. Chips beat Clark Gable's dashing, macho Rhett Butler for Best Actor. (Donat also edged out James Stewart's stirring portrayal of the idealistic titular character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Laurence Olivier's magnetic turn as the brooding Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights.) Fans of Gable cried foul, but anyone who has seen Donat's nuanced, restrained, yet deeply moving performance can't deny Donat deserved the honor.

The actor, who's perhaps better remembered as the elegant hero of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, appears in almost every frame of the film and ages from a vital young man of 21 to a doddering octogenarian. Though exquisitely crafted, there's nothing showy about his portrayal. There's no Oscar baiting, no theatricality. Donat immerses himself in the character and keeps us riveted, despite the lack of a cohesive plot. Episodic in nature, Goodbye, Mr. Chips is basically a series of vignettes that depict the arc of a life - its struggles, triumphs, tragedies, and the small moments that resonate. It's sweet, often charming, and strikes just the right notes throughout.

Watching the film today, it's almost impossible not to draw Harry Potter parallels. The scene showing the students boarding trains as they depart for school and the grand speeches by the headmaster in a cavernous dining hall that looks eerily like the one at Hogwarts all seem to have inspired J.K. Rowling. Chips himself even could have been a model for Albus Dumbledore. Like the Potter films, Goodbye, Mr. Chips was shot on location in England (MGM leased a studio there) and exudes plenty of authentic British flavor.

The movie also marks the auspicious debut of Greer Garson, who received an Oscar nod for her luminous, albeit brief portrayal of Chips' wife. (Garson lost to Vivien Leigh's Scarlett O'Hara, but three years later took home the coveted prize for Mrs. Miniver.) Her priceless chemistry with Donat raises the story's emotional stakes and their train station farewell, where she so memorably delivers the line "Goodbye, Mr. Chips" remains an iconic movie moment. After the film premiered, Garson immediately relocated to Hollywood, where she became one of MGM's biggest stars of the 1940s.

Paul Henreid, who would gain considerable renown with two classic 1942 films (Now, Voyager and Casablanca), also impresses in his first English-speaking role. A young John Mills also shines in his single scene with Donat and Terry Kilburn, who's best known for playing Tiny Tim opposite Reginald Owen's Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol (and who's still alive at age 97), does quadruple duty in a cute but gimmicky part portraying four generations of the Colley family, all of whom were taught by Mr. Chips. Donat and Kilburn share the final scene and really tug the heartstrings. When Kilburn repeats the titular line, it's hard to suppress a lump in the throat.

Credit the often unheralded Wood, a three-time Oscar nominee who also earned nods for Kitty Foyle and King's Row, with seamlessly and lyrically molding this intimate character study. His understated, unobtrusive direction allows us to zero in on the all-important performances, while the brilliant, life-like makeup by Jack Dawn allows Donat to age believably and gracefully. Hollywood age makeup often looks laughably fake, but not here. It's too bad there wasn't an Oscar for Best Makeup at the time of the film's release, because Dawn certainly would have won it, even over the stiff competition posed by The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Wizard of Oz. His work is that good.

Though Goodbye, Mr. Chips often gets overlooked in discussions of 1939 movies, it deserves its place among that year's cinematic gems. It may not be as grandiose as Gone with the Wind, as fantastic as The Wizard of Oz, as potent as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or Of Mice and Men, as tragic as Dark Victory, as exciting as Stagecoach, or as bitingly funny as The Women, but it captures an ideal, honors a profession, and salutes a human being with insight, empathy, and grace. There have been plenty of memorable movie teachers, but no one as endearing or dedicated as Mr. Chips.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray

The 1939 version of Goodbye, Mr. Chips arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu without music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.

Video Review


The beautiful 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer, which was struck from a new scan of the best possible source - a nitrate dupe negative from an international archive - breathes new life into this 84-year-old film. Excellent clarity and contrast, rich blacks, well-defined whites, and a wide grayscale produce a vibrant image that faithfully honors the cinematography of Freddie Young, who would win Oscars for David Lean's Lawrence of ArabiaDoctor Zhivago, and Ryan's Daughter decades later. The film's natural grain structure remains intact and preserves the feel of celluloid. The foggy scenes on the mountaintop are especially well rendered, shadow delineation is quite good, the close-ups of Garson are lovely, and the tight shots of the aged Mr. Chips showcase his wrinkles, sagging skin, and bushy mustache and eyebrows. Some softness crops up here and there and transitions are a bit rough, but any print damage has been meticulously erased. Warner Archive once again works its magic with less than optimal elements and preserves this finely crafted and beloved movie for future generations. Most importantly, the fans of today will be thrilled with this marvelous presentation.

Audio Review


Like many intimate dramas, Goodbye, Mr. Chips is a rather quiet film, but the remastered DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track nicely highlights all the aural nuances while supplying clear, well-balanced sound that's devoid of any age-related hiss, pops, or crackle. Sonic accents like train whistles and crowd noise are crisp, footsteps are distinct, and the music score benefits from fine fidelity and a lovely depth of tone. Some of the English accents obscure a few lines of dialogue, but the bulk of exchanges are easy to comprehend. While the audio remains subdued throughout, it serves the film well and is presented with care.

Special Features


The disc's sole extra is the movie's highly interesting, four-minute original theatrical trailer that features Alexander Woollcott, a famous newspaper columnist of the day who also served as the inspiration for the hilarious play and film The Man Who Came to Dinner. Woollcott rhapsodizes about the James Hilton novel and its film adaptation, saying in his distinctive voice, "I can testify that no moving picture has ever stirred me as deeply as this one." He goes on to state that "a beautiful and perhaps immortal story has been transferred from one medium to another with tenderness and imagination and genius...The most moving of all moving pictures is the one called Goodbye, Mr. Chips."

Final Thoughts

Goodbye, Mr. Chips still inspires and tugs the heartstrings more than eight decades after its premiere. The deeply resonating performances of Oscar-winner Robert Donat and Greer Garson, Sam Wood's stellar direction, and author James Hilton's timeless tale of unselfish dedication combine to create a memorable motion picture that celebrates teachers, education, and the power of one man to influence and elevate hundreds of students. Warner Archive honors this 1939 classic with beautifully remastered video and audio transfers that ensure it will endure for generations to come. Highly Recommended.