To Sir, With Love (1967) is one of the great teacher/student films. Following in the spirit of Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) Sidney Poitier is masterful as the novice teacher.
Rough Script To Sir, With Love 1967
Welcome to today’s show, my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follows the links to social media in the podcast show notes. Today we have the second of our back to school movies and it is a dandy. The movie is To Sir, with Love (1967) and stars that great actor Sidney Poitier with an English cast.
Christian Roberts played student Denham. Roberts ended his career with 23 credit but none of them are really of interest to this audience.
Judy Geeson played the role of rebellious student Pamela Dare. Born in 1948, she was a moderately successful actress with 95 tv and film credits. Some important roles she had were tv movie To Sir, With Love II (1996), The Eagle Has Landed (1976), and Brannigan (1975) with John Wayne.
Chris Chittell player student Potter. Chittell is an English actor. Of the 34 films he was in besides this one two others are of interest. They are The Wild Geese (1978) and Zulu Dawn (1979).
Michael Des Barres was cast as student Williams. Des Barres was a British rocker who fronted an American band Detective. He was a friend of Jimmy Page and was on the Swan Song label. He has been active but mostly in television.
Perhaps one of his greatest roles was a Dog on WKRPin Cincinnati (1978). On the show he was a trouble making band member from the band Scum of the Earth.
Scottish pop star Lulu was cast in the role of Barbara ‘Babs’ Pegg. She was born in Glasgow in 1948. As well as playing a part in the movie she sang the title song on screen. The song sent her singing career into high gear. She eventually became one of the biggest English female singers of the 1960s. She continues to sing and work in the music industry.
The movie begins with engineer Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier) traveling on a British bus. The local ladies are sexually harassing him so bad it was making me blush. One lady says she wouldn’t mind finding him in her stocking. Is that a lump of coal reference. More about this later. Another lady says she is feeding her husband faggots of beans. I had to look it up – it’s string beans and shallots.
He arrives for his first day of work at North Quay Secondary School located in the East End of London. He will be the equivalent of a high school teacher because he cannot find an engineering job. The staff give him a wide range of opinions about the students. Mr. Weston (Geoffrey Baykdon) loathes the student. But he starts giving Thackery a lot of grief about race using phrases like old black magic and black sheep.
New teacher Gillian Blanchard (Suzy Kendall) is shaking in her boots. She should be the love interest of Thackery but it never happens. The others say they are basically good kids that have been thrown out of other schools and have tough home life’s.
The students, while clearly being lower income and and at risk, are not very threatening by modern standards. Nobody seemed to be caring a gun and there were no needles. The two main leaders of the class are Bert Denham (Christian Roberts) and hotty Pamela Dare (Judy Geeson). The rest of the class is staffed with male and female toadies including thugs in need of leadership such as Williams (Michael Des Barres) and Potter (Chris Chittell), fashion queen, pop-singer Barbara Pegg (Lulu), and the a silent asian girl similar to the one in Pitch Perfect (201*).
The class just does stuff like slamming desk tops and doors. Nothing really bad and Thackeray tries to ignore it and keeps on teaching. They also wear the same clothes everyday as does Thackeray.
One morning Thackeray enters to class to find something burning on the heater. It never says in the movie but it is assumed to be a sanitary napkin. He blows a gasket and throws the boys out of the class. Where did they go when they left? To rob banks. He damns all of the girls for non-lady-like behavior and sluttish behavior. He blames at the girls. MovTae/TaeVies – Don’t blame the group as this will isolate then against you.
Thackeray becomes more upset at himself for losing his cool and vows to do better. When he goes back he changes the rules and decides to teach life skills. Everyone has to use formal naming and polite behavior. All subjects are open for discussion. Teaching real life skills Thackeray has won over the class except for Denham who sulks in back row. The kids find out the Thackeray has a similar background to them.
Thackeray organizes a cultural trip to the British History Museum. The class shows up cleaned, polished, and ready to go. The museum visit is shot in a long series on stationary shots. This happened because late in production they were denied access to film in the museum and only still cameras could be used.
When everything seems to be going well the wolf is at the door. Mr. Bell (Dervis Ward) the gym teacher forces Fats Buckley to do a split over the vault. The kids name is fats, you know he can’t make it but Bell forces him. He crashes and breaks the vault. Potter picks up a wooden leg and threatens the gym teacher. Thackeray has to come in to calm the situation down.
Thackeray insists that Potter apologize to Mr. Bell even though Bell could have been in the wrong. This loses most of the support he had been getting from the boys. The mother of the only black student, Seales (Anthony Villaroel) dies and the class takes a collection for flowers but they won’t take any money from Thackeray. They also say they won’t be going to his house because of Seales’ race. Thackeray is assigned to take over the gym class.
Now in what now appears to be a really ironic scene Pam Dare’s mother comes to talk to Thackeray. It seems that her daughter is using the the parade of men the mother hussy entertains at the house as an excuse to run the streets with a parade of men. Go figure.
Thackeray talks to Pam and there is some real sexual tension between the two. Pam does not understand the message and Thackeray has now lost the entire class. Thackeray has been mailing job applications through out the movie. With everything failing at the school he finally receives an offer.
In the gym class Denham wants to box. I think this might fix all of the problems in American schools if you could beat the crap out of each other. But I guess we have evolved to where the weak I mean the meek shall inherit the earth. So off my soapbox. Denham takes a couple of cheap shots trying to hurt the teacher. After a bit Thackeray unloads an uppercut to Denham’s gut. He drops like a bag of wet sand. Thackeray almost throws a finishing punch but checks his anger at the last minute.
In gym, Denham insists they have a boxing lesson, beginning with him and Thackeray. Thackeray reluctantly agrees. Despite getting in some early blows, Denham is disabled when Thackeray throws a massive abdominal punch that knocks the wind out of him. Thackeray draws back his fist to hit Denham again but gains control of his emotions and declares the fight over. Following the boxing lesson Denham ask Thackeray why he didn’t follow up with the punch. Thackeray says that he lost but then controlled his temper and that many thing in class may seem unfair but that was a part of life. He offers Denham a job as a boxing instructor for the next term. In this one move of brutal honesty he has reclaimed his entire class. Later when he travels to Seales’ house the entire class is there to show respect.
Finally the night of the final dance arrives and all is well. Even old Weston who has been race baiting Thackeray admits he is a gifted teacher and should continue this work. Barbara Pegg announces a lady’s choice dance and Pam Dare goes after Thackeray like a hungry dog after a pork chop. She is mauling him with her eyes and pouting lips. Ms. Dare his eyes are up top. Lulu sing the them song “To Sir, With Love.” Then the band changes to a rocking beat and the kids see how hip their teacher really is. Denham announces that the class has a gift for their teacher. Miss Wong (Lynne Sue Moon) the silent girl delivers the silver cup. Mr. Thackeray is chocked up and retreats to his dark classroom.
A young couple wanders into the room and begin goading Thackeray that they will be in his class next year. After they leave he realizes the importance of his work. He pulls the job offer from his pocket and tears it up.
World-Famous Short Summary – High school students are bastard people
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Beware the moors