SIMPLY CAROLE

SIMPLY CAROLE
CAROLE LOMBARD - My Favorite Actress

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sidney Poitier goes from juvenile delinquent in The Blackboard Jungle to respected teacher in To Sir, With Love

Sidney Poitier is one of the silver screen's best actors and one of my top three favorites. And I wanted to write this post about a connection between two of his best films, The Blackboard Jungle and To Sir, With Love.




Let's start with the gripping 1955 film, The Blackboard Jungle, which is about one of the toughest inner city schools in New York City. It's where newly minted teacher Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford in one of his best roles) comes to work. And once he gets the spiel from the principal and the other somewhat cynical teachers, Dadier gets to meet his students. They are a very unruly bunch led by Artie West (played by Vic Morrow) and Greg Miller (played by Sidney). These two test Dadier from the very first moment they meet, especially Artie. Miller is more laid back in his resentment of Dadier, but he still doesn't want to play nice. Always calling him chief. Miller is kind in a awkward position as he doesn't want to look bad in front of the other students, but he does want to get an education to better himself. So while Miller starts off as a bad egg, he and Dadier eventually warm to each other and become understanding of one another. Dadier gets closer to Miller to see what the kid really wants to do with his life. And Miller finally has someone to talk to. Artie is a different matter and will not back off from his constant pressure to Dadier. Even tormenting Dadier's wife Anne with letters saying her husband is having an affair with a fellow teacher. Things finally reach a boiling point at the film's climax when Artie pulls a knife on Dadier and it's Miller who comes to Dadier's aid. The Blackboard Jungle is a really good film that I assume made audiences look at themselves and their own children when it was released. And while both Poitier and Morrow look kind of old to be playing 17-year olds, they are riveting in their performances.




Flash forward twelve years and Poitier becomes teacher Mark Thackeray, a unemployed engineer who takes a teaching job in the East End of London to some very dysfunctional students. Of course the students don't make it easy for him as they just don't like authority figures. But Mark will not give up easy. He continues to push and push until the students finally start to respect him. To Sir, With Love is one of my favorite films of all time. And I like the fact that the color of Mark's skin doesn't play that big a role in this film. Just a teacher trying to get through to his students. The young actors cast as students are an exceptional bunch including Judy Geeson as the irrepressible student Pamela Dare, who gets to share a final dance with Mark at the film's climax. There is also Christian Roberts as Denham, the leader of the students. He engages Mark at every turn, but finally gains respect of Mark, especially after a little imromptu boxing lesson in gym class. And Lulu as Babs, who gets to sing the enthralling title song at the finale. By setting the film in England was a masterstroke as American audiences got see a different classroom setting. And it showed kids could be troubled anywhere in the world. Poitier is top notch as Mark. Never hitting a false note. And superbly supported by a talented young cast, especially Judy Geeson as Pamela. You may get a little teary-eyed at the ending as the students move on, but that's life and that's how it should be. I don't think they will ever forget what an impact Mr. Thackeray had on their young lives. And I just think it's cool seeing Poitier go from delinquent to teacher in two unforgettable roles in two of the best films of his career.

4 comments:

Margaret Perry said...

TO SIR WITH LOVE is one of my favorite movies. Lulu is great in it, and so is a young-ish Patricia Routledge. Poitier is, of course, uncomparable.

Desiree Colson said...

Monty, enjoyed reading this! It was very well-written. Bravo!

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