My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Best Actress 1939: Greer Garson in "Goodbye, Mr. Chips"

Greer Garson and the Academy…one of the biggest love stories of all time. She received an Oscar nomination for her movie debut and was nominated 6 times in 7 years, 5 of them even in consecutive years.

Her Oscar-nominated debut was in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, a timeless classic about a teacher’s life at the Brookfield Boarding School.

Today, Greer Garson’s performance would surely be put in the Supporting category where she would probably have a good chance to win. But back then, the difference between Leading and Supporting was not screen time but rather “star” or “no star”. Stars were always lead, everyone else was supporting. And since MGM was destined to make Greer a star, no other category could have been accepted.

Overall, Goodbye, Mr. Chips rests on the shoulders of the amazing Robert Donat. No matter what people say, he is one of the most deserving winners ever in the Best Actor category for his wonderful, warm, funny and touching portrayal of Mr. Chipping.

At the beginning of the movie, we see him as a loveable old man, respected by colleagues and pupils alike. But when he rests in front of a fire, he starts dreaming and we are told the story of his life.

His start at the school was anything else than easy. Mr. Chipping is shy and insecure. The boys at the school have an easy time, playing tricks on him and making him look a fool in front of the headmaster. When Mr. Chipping realizes that he can only react with strict discipline, he alienates the children even more. Years later, Chipping is a lonely man, disliked by the pupils and not taken seriously by most of his colleagues. When it’s his time to become house master, he is ignored.

At this time in his life, the German teacher of the school convinces Chipping to join him on a trip through Austria that will change his life forever.

While he is climbing a mountain, fog comes along, making it impossible to go down again. And then he hears the voice of a woman. He starts to climb along in the fog, trying to find her. And then he meets that woman, sitting on a rock, smiling at him.

Greer Garson gives probably one of the most charming performances ever put on the screen. She is simply irresistible in the part of Kathy Ellis. She and Robert Donat have such great chemistry from the first moment they share the screen. The only word that can describe the two is “sweet”. They are just sweet together, so adorable. He is shy, but charming and she is lovely and full of life.

Greer Garson immediately establishes Kathy as a complete opposite to Chipping. She is not shy, quite the contrary, she is out-spoken, not afraid to get close to Chipping. She and another friend are bicycling through Austria, something Chipping finds rather shocking. He is old-fashioned and lives in a world of his own while she wants the vote and enjoy life. During their short time on the top of the mountain, we can see how they both fall in love right away but they’re both too British to admit it.

But later, their paths meet again in Vienna. Again, Greer Garson is just so charming every moment she is on the screen. At the end of the trip, she kisses him quickly goodbye and who can’t love the moment when he is running along her departing train, saying “Now you have to marry me!”

They do get married and now Greer’s character becomes of great importance: she changes Chipping and his life forever. She gets him out of his shell, makes him less shy and insecure. She simply charms everyone at his school, the other teachers, the children. Everyone loves her and she makes everyone love Chipping, too. She is the one who gives him the nickname “Chips”, she is the one who gets the idea to invite some of the pupils over for tea every Sunday. She gets him to be more open and to even make jokes in class. And he finally becomes house master, just as Kathy always expected him to.

Greer shows Kathy as a woman with never ending confidence in her husband. Her lovely smile and her warm voice lighten up the screen whenever we see her. When she leaves the movie much too soon, that bright light suddenly disappears but Chips is another man now, thanks to Kathy.

In playing Kathy, Greer Garson simply focused on the most important aspect of her character: her charm. Kathy is not really a character but rather a plot device who serves the story of Mr. Chipping. The script only asks her two things: to makes us believe that she would fall in love with Chipping and to be loveable and charming. She completly succeds in these two departments but sadly she doesn’t get much else to do. She does try to give Kathy some depths but the character only exists to change the main character of the movie. That’s why a nomination in the Supporting category would probably have been wiser. Kathy has no own life, we never learn anything about her character or her inner feelings. We always stay on her surface.

So, it’s a completely loveable and winning, but also very short performance of a sadly very two-dimensional character that gets

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