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CHEERS FOR MISS BISHOP(director: Tay Garnett; screenwriters: Stephen Vincent Benet/Sheridan Gibney/Adelaide Heilbron/from the novel by Bess Streeter Aldrich; cinematographer: Hal Mohr; editor: William F. Claxton; music: Edward Ward; cast: Martha Scott (Ella Bishop), William Gargan (Sam Peters), Edmund Gwenn (James Corcoran), Sterling Holloway (Chris Jensen), Dorothy Peterson (Mrs. Bishop), Sidney Blackmer (Professor John Stevens), Mary Anderson (Amy Saunders), Donald Douglas (Delbert Thompson), Knox Manning (Anton Radcheck), Rosemary DeCamp (Minna Fields), John Arledge (“Snapper” McRae), Marsha Hunt (Hope Thompson); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Richard A. Rowland; United Artists; 1941)
“Not much to say about such sentimental humbug, except it’s all so very nicely done and let’s give three cheers for Miss Bishop.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tay Garnett (“Trade Winds”/”The Delta Factor”/”Slightly Honorable”) adequately but far too tepidly helms this meant to be inspirational old-fashioned schoolmarm tale about a dedicated teacher who never married. It holds good distaff teachers up in the same lofty stratosphere as Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) did for the men, and there’s nothing wrong with those sentiments. Testimony is offered to an orderly way of life that no longer exists, but might be yearned for as being the good ole days by those inclined to such sentiments for real or imagined nostalgia. The pleasant tale is based on a Bess Streeter Aldrich novel that was adapted by Stephen Vincent Benet, Sheridan Gibney and Adelaide Heilbron.

The film is told in flashback and tells when the 19-year-old resident of the fictional Midwestern Maple City, Ella Bishop (Martha Scott), enrolled in 1879 at the newly-opened Midwestern University and spurned the marriage proposal of nice-boy grocery delivery man Sam Peters (William Gargan) because she was interested in book learning and he was interested in being self-employed as a grocer. Sam is now one of the richest men in the state and sits on the college’s board of trustees, and still has a crush on the old maid. The flashback spans fifty years to 1929. It’s brought on by the visit of the now elderly Sam Peters to the home of the unmarried Ella to reminisce about old times. She recalls the university built in the cornfields and the inspirational speech given by President Corcoran (Edmund Gwenn), in which he says that education is the road to freedom.

There are no sparks of excitement in this loving and carefully nurtured tale that covers the little events in Ella’s structured life—hired by Corcoran to teach English at the university, teaching her first class, a disappointing love affair with an unethical lawyer (Donald Douglas), the adoption of her reckless temptress cousin Amy’s baby girl Hope when mom dies during childbirth, a second discreet romantic adventure with a married colleague (Sidney Blackmer) that fizzled out because he can’t get a divorce, her retirement from teaching and that final banquet testimonial from all her successful pupils.

Not much to say about such sentimental humbug, except it’s all so very nicely done and let’s give three cheers for Miss Bishop.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”