To Sir, With Love (1967)

  • The opening credits to this are so ’60s – both in terms of text design & music. Bleh.
  • Screenplay by, produced by, & directed by James Clavell.

Wow! Look at you go!

  • Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier) arrives mid school year as a replacement teacher for one who gave up and ran away. Mr. Thackeray is a highly qualified engineering professional – but has zero teaching experience – so this should go very interestingly.
  • Another brand new teacher is Gillian Blanchard (Suzy Kendall), and she is super cute with her dark-rimmed glasses and side ponytail. She reminds me of Zooey Deschanel’s character in New Girl. I hope she & Mr. Thackeray become BFFs.
  • After a day or so, Mr. Thackeray tells the other teachers that he feels sorry for these kids – they’re all seniors and barely any of them can smoothy read a paragraph of text out loud. ‘Bah!’ says fellow teacher Weston (Geoffrey Bayldon). ‘They’re all hoodlums!’
  • A few weeks later, after the boys in his class drop a makeshift water balloon out of the window at him & the girls set fire to something (?), Mr. Thackeray loses his cool and is like, ‘Nope! This shit isn’t gonna fly with me anymore,’ and lays down some rules.
  • He wants everyone to behave & converse like the adults they will soon leave school and become. He will be called “Sir” or “Mr. Thackeray,” the boys will be called by their last names, and all of the girls will be called “Miss.”
  • “No man likes a slut for long,” Mr. Thackeray advises the girls in his class. “Only the worst type will marry one.”

And as for the boys?

“If you want to wear your hair long, clean it. Else you’ll soon get lice and smell.”

Bravo, Mr. Thackeray. That is some damn good advice.

  • So…now that Mr. Thackeray has literally thrown the school books in the garbage, here is what he plans to talk about with his class the rest of the year:

“Life. Survival. Love. Death. Sex. Marriage. Rebellion. Anything you want.”

Sweet moves, Thomas.

  • Side note: In the ‘Mr. Thackeray Is Losing His Shit’ scene, the film splashes some dramatic instrumental ’60s music behind him – and, thoroughly unsurprisingly, it does its best to ruin the scene.

Sidney Poitier vs. ’60s background music: Round 1.

(Sidney won…but only barely.)

  • Denham (Christian Roberts) looks like Eddie Redmayne.
  • Oh, man. This is just chock full of good bits o’ wisdom:

“To my mind, marriage is no way of life for the weak, the selfish, or the insecure.” — Sir

“So long as we learn, it doesn’t matter who teaches us, does it?” — Clinty Clintridge (Patricia Routledge)

  • Oh, God. There’s a snapshot montage of their class field trip, backed by the fucking theme song from the opening credits.

I hate the sixties.

  • Everything’s going swimmingly until the gym teacher (Dervis Ward) makes Fats (aka Buckley,  who really isn’t that fat) (Roger Shepherd) do a jumping exercise that he doesn’t want to do, and the gym equipment breaks under Fats’s weight (which again – is not that heavy). The class is irate, and Potter is set to beat the living daylights out of Coach, until Sir rushes in & intervenes.
  • Denham thinks that under no circumstance should Potter have to apologize for his (nearly) violent reaction – and uses this as a reason to further rebel against Sir & his methods. (Booooo!)
  • At some point during this, Sir asks Potter, “Are you a man, or a hoodlum?” I love this, and intend to ask this right off, the next time I’m on a first date with someone.
  • After the Fats incident, Sir becomes their gym teacher instead of Coach. Denham’s like, ‘Oh, we’re learning boxing today? I’ll be your partner, Mr. Thackeray’ and essentially challenges Sir to a boxing duel.

Denham is such a jackass kid & I really don’t like him. Luckily, Sir downs him with one punch – and the ultimate ‘Don’t be a headstrong jackass’ lesson is learned, I think, for good.

  • I think the most touching scene by far is the one where Sir rounds a corner, heading for Seales (Anthony Villaroel)’s mother’s funeral – and the entire class is there, having decided to attend despite the potential for gossip (Seales is black).
  • Sir finally gets an offer for an engineering job, and plans to leave school at the end of the year…until Barbara (Lulu) serenades him with the (goddamn) movie theme song at the class party.

Poitier’s acting throughout the class party scene – especially his reaction to receiving the class gift – is fantastic.

  • Anyway, we are led to believe that Sir chooses to stay & reform a new set of hoodlums, next term.
  • Pretty good movie, once all of the stylized ’60s details & effects are disregarded. A+, and several gold stars for Mr. Poitier and his omnipotent charisma.
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