To Sir, with Love
|To Sir, with Love|
UK theatrical release poster
|Directed by||James Clavell|
|Produced by||James Clavell|
|Screenplay by||James Clavell|
|Based on||To Sir, With Love|
by E. R. Braithwaite
|Music by||Ron Grainer|
|Cinematography||Paul Beeson, B.S.C.|
|Edited by||Peter Thornton|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Budget||$625,000 or $600,000|
|Box office||$42,432,803 or $22 million|
To Sir, with Love is a 1967 British drama film that deals with social and racial issues in an inner city school. It stars Sidney Poitier and features Christian Roberts, Judy Geeson, Suzy Kendall and singer Lulu making her film debut. James Clavell (who had written The Children's Story three years prior) directed from his own screenplay, which was based on E. R. Braithwaite's 1959 autobiographical novel of the same name.
The film's title song "To Sir with Love", sung by Lulu, reached number one on the U.S. pop charts for five weeks in the autumn of 1967 and ultimately was Billboard magazine's No. 1 pop single for that year. The movie ranked number 27 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.
A made-for-television sequel, To Sir, with Love II (1996), was released nearly three decades later, with Poitier reprising his starring role.
Mark Thackeray (Sidney Poitier), an immigrant to Britain from British Guiana via California, applies for an engineering job, but learns that it will be a long time before a decision is made. He also applies for and is offered a teaching post at North Quay Secondary School in the tough East End of London, which he accepts as an interim position.
Thackeray learns from the staff of North Quay that most of the pupils have been rejected from other schools, and their antics drove their last teacher to resign. The pupils live up to their reputation. Led by Bert Denham (Christian Roberts) and Pamela Dare (Judy Geeson), their antics progress from disruptive behaviour (banging desk lids to break Thackeray's train of thought) to distasteful pranks. One pupil, Williams, persistently wears sunglasses in the classroom; Thackeray, as a running gag, keeps removing them for him. Thackeray retains his calm manner but a turning point comes one morning when he enters the classroom and discovers something being burned in the classroom stove. (It is implied that one of the girls is burning a used sanitary napkin, but this is never confirmed.) Despite himself, Thackeray loses his temper; he orders the boys out of the classroom and then reprimands, not only the unknown girl who caused the fire, but also the other girls for knowingly and wilfully allowing her to do so. Thackeray is more angry with himself than with his pupils, as he has allowed them to get the better of him. Changing his approach, he informs the students that he will treat them as adults, and allow them to discuss issues of their own choosing for the remainder of the term. Future classes discuss what the pupils can expect when they leave school, including advice on how to apply for jobs.
Thackeray wins the class over, except for Denham, who continues to bait him. Thackeray suggests a class outing to a museum, which turns out to be a success. He loses some of this new-found support when he defuses a potentially violent situation between Potter (Chris Chittell) and a gym teacher, Mr Bell. In class, he demands that Potter apologize directly to Bell for the incident even if he believes Bell was wrong. The group refuses to invite Thackeray to the class dance, and when Seales' (Anthony Villaroel) mother dies, the class takes up a collection for a wreath but refuses to accept Thackeray's donation. At this point, the headmaster advises him that he feels "the adult approach" has failed; future class outings are cancelled, and Thackeray is to take over the boys' gym classes until the headmaster can find a replacement. Meanwhile, Thackeray receives the engineer job offer in the post.
He starts to win the pupils back after he beats Denham in a boxing match, but tells him that he has genuine boxing ability and suggests that Denham teach boxing to the younger pupils next year. Denham expresses his admiration for Thackeray to his fellow pupils; Thackeray wins back their respect and is invited to the class dance. Later, when Thackeray attends the funeral of Seales' mother, he is touched to find that his lectures on personal choices and responsibility have been taken to heart, and his entire class has also come despite the stigma they would receive for entering the home of a coloured person.
At the dance, Barbara Pegg (Lulu) announces a "ladies choice" dance and Pamela chooses Thackeray as her dance partner. While Barbara sings the film theme song, the class presents Thackeray with a gift. He is too moved for words and retires to his classroom.
Two youths rush into the classroom, and upon seeing Thackeray they begin mocking his gift, a silver tankard and card "To sir, with love", with the students' signatures, and joke that they will be in his class next year. After they leave, Thackeray tears up the job offer letter. He then takes a flower from the vase on his desk, places it on his lapel and returns to the dance.
- Sidney Poitier as Mark Thackeray
- Christian Roberts as Bert Denham
- Judy Geeson as Pamela Dare
- Suzy Kendall as Gillian Blanchard
- Lulu as Barbara "Babs" Pegg
- Ann Bell as Mrs Dare
- Geoffrey Bayldon as Theo Weston
- Faith Brook as Grace Evans
- Patricia Routledge as Clinty Clintridge
- Chris Chittell as Potter
- Adrienne Posta as Moira Joseph
- Edward Burnham as Florian
- Rita Webb as Mrs Joseph
- Fred Griffiths as Market Stallholder
- Anthony Villaroel as Seales
- Michael Des Barres as Williams
- Gareth Robinson as Tich Jackson
- Lynne Sue Moon as Miss Wong
- Marianne Stone as Gert
- The Mindbenders
Sidney Poitier and James Clavell wanted to do the film, but Columbia was reluctant. They agreed to make the film for small fees, provided Poitier got 10% of the gross and Clavell 30% of the profits. "When we were ready to shoot, Columbia wanted either a rape or a big fight put in," said Martin Baum. We held out, saying this was a gentle story, and we won."
Upon its U.S. release, Bosley Crowther began his review by contrasting the film with Poitier's role and performance in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle; unlike that earlier film, Crowther says "a nice air of gentility suffuses this pretty color film, and Mr. Poitier gives a quaint example of being proper and turning the other cheek. Although he controls himself with difficulty in some of his confrontations with his class, and even flares up on one occasion, he never acts like a boor, the way one of his fellow teachers (played by Geoffrey Bayldon) does. Except for a few barbed comments by the latter, there is little intrusion of or discussion about the issue of race: It is as discreetly played down as are many other probable tensions in this school. To Sir, with Love comes off as a cozy, good-humored and unbelievable little tale."
Halliwell's Film and Video Guide describes it as "sentimental non-realism" and quotes a Monthly Film Bulletin review (possibly contemporary with its British release), which claims that "the sententious script sounds as if it has been written by a zealous Sunday school teacher after a particularly exhilarating boycott of South African oranges".
The Time Out Film Guide says that it "bears no resemblance to school life as we know it" and the "hoodlums' miraculous reformation a week before the end of term (thanks to teacher Poitier) is laughable". Although agreeing with the claims about the film's sentimentality, and giving it a mediocre rating, the Virgin Film Guide asserts: "What makes [this] such as enjoyable film is the mythic nature of Poitier's character. He manages to come across as a real person, while simultaneously embodying everything there is to know about morality, respect and integrity."
The film premiered and became a hit one month before another film about troubled schools, Up the Down Staircase, appeared.
To Sir, with Love holds a 92% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes. The film grossed $42,432,803 at the box office in the United States, yielding $19,100,000 in rentals, on a $640,000 budget, making it the eighth highest grossing picture of 1967 in the US. Poitier especially benefited from that film's success considering he agreed on a mere $30,000 fee in exchange for 10% of the gross box office and thus arranged one of the most impressive payoffs in film history. In fact, although Columbia insisted on an annual cap to Poitier of $25,000 to fulfill that percentage term, the studio was forced to revise the deal with Poitier when they calculated they would be committed to 80 years of those payments.
|To Sir, with Love|
|Soundtrack album by various|
|Label||Fontana Records (UK)|
|Singles from To Sir, with Love|
The soundtrack album features music by Lulu, The Mindbenders, and incidental music by Ron Grainer. The original album was released on Fontana Records. It was re-released onto CD in 1995. AllMusic rated it three stars out of five.
- To Sir With Love (Lyric: Don Black / Music: Marc London) – Lulu
- School Break Dancing "Stealing My Love from Me" (Lyric & Music: Marc London) – Lulu
- Thackeray meets Faculty, Then Alone
- Music from Lunch Break "Off and Running" (Lyric: Toni Wine / Music: Carole Bayer) – The Mindbenders
- Thackeray Loses Temper, Gets an Idea
- Museum Outings Montage "To Sir, with Love" - Lulu
- A Classical Lesson
- Perhaps I Could Tidy Your Desk
- Potter's loss of temper in gym
- Thackeray reads letter about job
- Thackeray and Denham box in gym
- The funeral
- End of Term Dance "It's Getting Harder all the Time" (Lyric: Ben Raleigh / Music: Charles Abertine) – The Mindbenders
- To Sir With Love – Lulu
Awards and honors
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- The Hindi film Imtihan (1974) starring Vinod Khanna as the teacher, and Tanuja as his love interest, was inspired by the film
- Dangerous Minds
- The Egyptian comedy Madrast Al-Mushaghebeen, was inspired by the film.
- "An author at home in Hollywood and Hong Kong". Dudar, Helen. Chicago Tribune. 12 Apr 1981: e1.
- A Blue-Ribbon Packager of Movie Deals Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 20 Apr 1969: w1.
- "To Sir, With Love, Box Office Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- EW Staff (August 28, 2015). "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly.
- Crowther, Bosley (15 June 1967). "Poitier Meets the Cockneys: He Plays Teacher Who Wins Pupils Over". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-19.
- Walker, John, ed. (1999). Halliwell's Film and Video Guide 2000. London: HarperCollins. p. 845. ISBN 0-00-653165-2.
- David Pirie review in Johm Pym (ed), Time Out Film Guide 2009, London: Ebury, 2008, p. 1098.
- The Seventh Virgin Film Guide, London: Virgin Publishing, 1998, p. 729. Published by Cinebooks in the US. The "mediocre rating" claim is based on the authors giving the film three out of five stars.
- "To Sir, with Love, Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 9 January 2012.
- Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution: Five Films and the Birth of a New Hollywood. Penguin Press. p. 328.
- To Sir, with Love at AllMusic
- "Top Single". Cash Box Magazine Charts. Cashbox. 1967. Archived from the original on 2012-09-27. Retrieved 2013-12-19.
- "To Sir, with Love".
- "Judy Geeson". IMDb.
- DGA 1967. Dga.org. Retrieved on 24 April 2012.
- "Christian Roberts". IMDb.
- "Grammy Awards (1968)".
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-05.