The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Directed by Ronald Neame. UK. 1969. NR. 116 minutes. Fox. 35mm.
Sun., May 13, 2012
Maggie Smith also won an Oscar for playing a charismatic educator, but one of a very different ilk than the gentle, unassuming Mr. Chips. As the title character in this fascinating film (based upon the stage-play of the novel by Muriel Sparks), Smith portrays an eccentric, inspiring teacher at an exclusive girls school in Edinburgh in the late 1930s, a woman with decidedly controversial leanings. (For example, she expresses a fondness for modern art and such fascistic figures as Mussolini and Franco.) As she builds an ardent following of students and faculty-members alike, her influence and her leanings create a strong adversity with the schools dour headmistress, powerfully played by Celia Johnson, leading to major complications of all. For a fascinating character study, filled with spellbinding performances, you will find The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie to be the creme de la creme. (Bill Roth)