And my British Invaders Blogathon Pick is… To Sir, With Love…
“But how do you thank someone who has taken you from crayons to perfume? It isn’t easy, but I’ll try…”
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve loved this film… In fact, it was one of the few films that I recorded onto a cassette tape so that I could listen to it over and over again (yes, I’m sure I was a very geeky child). That said, this film will always hold fond memories for me — and I’m sure that would have been enough to prompt me to write this blog post… However, there’s more to it than that… as an adult, this film holds a very special meaning for me… and I hope that I can articulate it here…
I have been lucky enough in my lifetime to have had one teacher who absolutely changed my life. I studied music privately with her for over 15 years, but she was SO much more than ‘just’ a teacher; she was a coach, a muse, a friend — and above-all, a mentor. She helped me evolve from a ‘little girl’ into adulthood and artistry, and she transformed my life in more ways than she could ever possibly know. That said, this post is dedicated to my mentor, who has left an indelible and profound mark on me that I will carry always with great gratitude and ‘With Love’…
The film, To Sir, With Love, was based on the 1959 autobiographical novel of the same name by Guyanese novelist/writer/teacher/diplomat Edward Ricardo Braithwaite (E.R. Braithwaite). Braithwaite attended Queen’s College in Guyana, then the City College of New York, and joined the Royal Air Force during World War II. After the war, despite his extensive training, Braithwaite could not find work in his given field and, disillusioned, reluctantly took a job as a schoolteacher in the East End of London.
James Clavell directed, produced and wrote the screenplay for the film… Other notable Clavell works include the Screenplay for The Great Escape and the novel Shogun which was adapted into a TV mini-series in 1980.
An out-of-work engineer, Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier), turns to teaching in London’s East End until he can find an engineering job. As a novice teacher, Thackeray must deal with a rowdy bunch of undisciplined ‘working class’ students who try to break his spirit at every turn. But Thackeray perseveres and meets the challenge by trying a different teaching approach – treating the ‘kids’ as young adults who will soon enter the work force where they must stand or fall on their own. Upon finally being offered an engineering job at the end of the semester, Thackeray must make a profound and life-altering decision…
Now, of course, there are intricacies and twists to the plot that add depth and texture — including a crush, a ring-leader, a parent-child conflict, a bullying teacher and a blooming romance, not to mention the social and racial themes weaved throughout…
Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray
“It’s encouraging that you have a sense of humor. It seems you know so little, and are so easily amused, I can look forward to a very happy time.”
“I lost my temper — the one thing I swore I would never, never do… Of all of the bull I’ve taken in my life — in a few short weeks those kids have got me so steamed up, so easy, so quickly! I never would have thought it.”
“Those kids are devils incarnate. I’ve tried everything, everything — but nothing I’ve tried… kids — kids — that’s it — kids!”
“Those are out! (throws books in the garbage can)… They are useless to you… You will be adults in a few weeks with all the responsibilities that implies. So from now on you will be treated as such by me, and by each other… as adults, responsible adults. Next, we are going to be reasonable with each other. We are just going to talk, you and I…”
THE OTHER TEACHERS:
Geoffrey Bayldon as Theo Weston
“So, you’re the new lamb for the slaughter…”
Suzy Kendall as Gillian Blanchard
“There’s something frightening, but at the same time challenging, about this school…”
Faith Brook as Mrs. Evans
“Gillian dear, convince him to stay”
Patricia Routledge as Clinty Clintridge
“If you don’t solve them, they’ll break you — and damn quickly.” -Clinty
“That’s been tried — by experts.” -Mark
“They’re very expert…” -Clinty
Edward Burnham as the Principal Florian:
“Most of our children are rejects from other schools. We have to help them as best we can; we have to teach them what we can, and as much as we can… Success or failure will depend entirely upon you…”
Christian Roberts as Denham
“That’s not fair, SIR.”
Chris Chittell as Potter
“Hey, why should we call ’em ‘miss’, we know ’em…”
Judy Geeson as Pamela Dare
“I thought you’d understand! I thought you were different! I thought I could trust you. But you’re just as Denham said!”
Lulu Kennedy-Cairns as Pegg
“Oooh, look at me! I am a lady, I am!”
“Anybody can be an engineer, but teaching this mob is… well, l wish l had your gift.”
“If you must leave Mark, go to another school. You can’t waste a marvelous talent on rotten electronics. Damn! Swore I wouldn’t interfere!” -Clinty Clintridge
“The time has come for closing books and long last looks must end. And as I leave, I know that I am leaving my best friend… a friend who taught me right from wrong — and weak from strong — that’s a lot to learn… But, what can I give you in return?” -Lulu
“Let me give my heart, to sir, with love” – Lulu (singing in the background)
I’m not telling, but perhaps you can guess from the next picture 🙂
A Few Fun Facts about the song, “To Sir, With Love” and other music from the film:
- The track, “To Sir With Love,” performed by Lulu reached #1 on the US Pop Charts, ultimately becoming Billboard’s #1 pop single for the year 1967.
- The song was written by Don Black (lyrics) and Mark London (music).
- Don Black has worked with John Barry, Andrew Lloyd Webber Quincy Jones, Marvin Hamlisch and Michael Jackson (among others), and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007.
- Mark London has maintained a longstanding association with Lulu as both a songwriter and producer. He also produces and manages bands, as well as composes soundtracks.
- The band featured in the film was The Mindbenders — Eric Stewart (of later 10cc fame) on guitar and vocals, Ric Rothwell on drums and vocals, and Bob Lang on bass.
- The Mindbenders are also featured on the Soundtrack with the songs “It’s Getting Harder All The Time” and “Off and Running.”
- Prior Mindbenders’ hits included “Game of Love” (1965, as Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders) and “A Groovy Kind of Love” (1965, after Wayne Fontana quit the band).
A Big Thank You to Terry Towles Canote at A Shroud of Thoughts (@mercurie80) for hosting this very special event! There are so many more wonderful Classic Bloggers participating in this event so please be sure to check out the other entries.
—Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub