#AceSocialDesk reports on the Film & Soundtrack for 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 directed from his own screenplay, which was based on E. R. Braithwaite‘s 1959 autobiographical novel of the same name.
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To Sir, with LoveUK theatrical release posterDirected byJames ClavellScreenplay byJames ClavellBased onTo Sir, With Love
1959 novel by E. R. BraithwaiteProduced byJames Clavell
John R. SloanStarringSidney PoitierCinematographyPaul Beeson, B.S.C.Edited byPeter ThorntonMusic byRon GrainerProduction
company Columbia British ProductionsDistributed byColumbia PicturesRelease date
- 14 June 1967 (US)
- 29 October 1967 (UK)
Running time105 minutesCountryUnited KingdomLanguageEnglishBudget$625,000 or $600,000Box office$42,432,803 or $22 million
The film’s title song “To Sir with Love“, sung by Lulu, peaked at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States for five weeks in the autumn of 1967 and ultimately was the best-selling single in the United States of 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, an immigrant to Britain from British Guyana, must wait a long period to hear about an engineering job he applied for. In the meantime, he accepts a teaching post at North Quay Secondary School in the tough East End of London, as an interim position.
Most of the school’s pupils have been rejected from other schools, and their conduct drove the last teacher to resign. The pupils, led by Bert Denham and Pamela Dare, behave badly: their antics range from disruptive behaviour to distasteful pranks. Thackeray retains a calm demeanour, but loses his temper when he discovers something being burned in the classroom stove, which turns out to be a girl’s sanitary pad. He orders the boys out of the classroom, then reprimands all the girls, either for being responsible or passively observing, for what he says is their slutty behaviour. Thackeray is angry with himself for allowing his pupils to get the better of him. Changing his approach, he informs the class they will no longer study from textbooks. Until the end of term, when they are due to leave school, he will treat them as adults and expects them to behave as such (“You will show respect to me and each other at all times. You will address me as ‘Sir’ or ‘Mr. Thackeray’. Boys will be addressed by their last names; the girls will be likewise addressed, and as ‘Miss’.”); they can discuss whatever issues they wish, including relationships, marriage, sex, and applying for jobs. He gradually wins the class over, except for Denham, who continually baits him.
Thackeray arranges a class outing to a Natural History Museum in Kensington which goes well. The trip is represented by a series of still photographs as Lulu sings “To Sir With Love.”
He loses some support when he defuses a potentially violent situation between Potter and a gym teacher, Mr Bell. In class, he demands that Potter apologize directly to Bell, even if he believes Bell was wrong. The group later refuses to invite Thackeray to the class dance. When black student Seales’ mother dies, the class takes up a collection for a wreath but refuse to accept Thackeray’s donation; and the students refuse to deliver the wreath to Seales’ house in person because their parents wouldn’t approve of their visiting a “colored” person’s house. The headmaster tells Thackeray that “the adult approach” has failed, and future outings are cancelled. 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.
During a gym class, Denham smugly challenges Thackeray to a boxing match. Denham delivers several blows to Thackeray’s face, but the bout comes to an abrupt end when Thackeray delivers one punch to Denham’s mid-section. However, Thackeray compliments Denham’s ability and suggests he teach boxing to the younger pupils next year. Denham expresses his admiration for Thackeray to his classmates; Thackeray regains 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 had an effect and the entire class has attended.
At the dance, Pamela chooses Thackeray as her partner for the “Ladies Choice” dance. Afterward, the class presents to Thackeray “a little present to remember us by”. Thackeray is moved and retires to his classroom.
Two younger, rowdy pupils rush into the classroom, in what appears an attempt to be alone together. The two laugh at the sentimentality of Thackeray’s gifts, a silver tankard and card, “To Sir, with love”, with the departing class’s signatures. They joke that they will be in his class next year. After they leave, Thackeray tears up the engineering job offer, reconciled to the work he has ahead of him. He then takes a flower from the vase on his desk, places it in his lapel, and leaves.
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 an 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.
The novel’s author E.R. Braithwaite loathed the film, particularly because of its betrayal of the novel’s interracial relationship.
To Sir, with Love holds an 89% “Fresh” rating on the review aggregatewebsite Rotten Tomatoes based on 28 reviews. 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 sixth 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 LoveSoundtrack album by variousReleased1967GenreTraditional popLabelFontana (UK)Singles from To Sir, with Love
- “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.
The title song was a Cash Box Top 100 number-one single for three weeks.
- “To Sir With Love” (lyrics: Don Black; music: Marc London) – Lulu
- School Break Dancing “Stealing My Love from Me” (lyrics & 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” (lyrics: Ben Raleigh; music: Charles Abertine) – The Mindbenders
- To Sir With Love – Lulu
- “An author at home in Hollywood and Hong Kong”. Dudar, Helen. Chicago Tribune. 12 April 1981: e1.
- ^ a b c A Blue-Ribbon Packager of Movie Deals Warga, Wayne. Los Angeles Times 20 April 1969: w1.
- ^ a b “To Sir, With Love, Box Office Information”. The Numbers. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
- EW Staff (28 August 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 19 December 2013.
- 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.
- Thomas, Susie (August 2013; minor amendments, January 2016). “E.R. Braithwaite: To Sir, with Love”. London Fictions. Retrieved 4 April 2021. Check date values in:
- “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 27 September 2012. Retrieved 19 December2013.
- “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 5
#AceNewsDesk report ………….Published: Oct.26: 2021:
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