Thursday, March 10, 2011
Her Twelve Men (4 stars)
Greer Garson, with her lovely lilting brogue, portrays Jan Stewart, a young widow who has just been hired as the first female teacher at The Oaks, a boarding school for boys. Since the school has never had a woman teacher before and no one is quite sure what to expect, she is hired on a one year trial. Her job will be to teach and be house-mother to a group of twelve pre-adolescent boys...many of which have been sent there by parents who just don't want to be bothered with them.
Joe Hargrave (played by Robert Ryan), who is in charge of the lower school, feels that Jan is unqualified for the position but, nevertheless, wants to help her make a difference in the lives of the boys. Continually angered by parents who ignore their children and then expect the school to straighten them out, Joe is completely devoted to his position.
The boys in Jan's ward include Bobby, whose parents are on the Riviera and who don't miss him at all, and spoiled Dick, whose widowed dad travels three weeks out of the month, leaving Dick to the care of the servants. How these boys' lives are changed by the love and care of Jan (and Joe) is the crux of the movie.
I read film critic Leonard Maltin's review of Her Twelve Men (on the TCM website) and was totally shocked. He gave the movie two out of four stars, saying that "Her Twelve Men was a failed attempt to repeat the success of GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS." I totally disagree with Mr. Maltin on this one. I enjoyed Her Twelve Men far more than Goodbye, Mr. Chips. It's sweet and tender and got me misty-eyed on several occasions. (Not that Mr. Chips didn't, but I definitely didn't connect with Mr. Chips as I connected with Her Twelve Men, probably in large part due to my appreciation of Robert Ryan.)
Anyhow, I highly recommend Her Twelve Men. I don't think it's out on DVD, though you might be able to track down a VHS copy through the library system. Also, TCM shows it fairly often, so you can catch it there. Oh, and by the way, it's in color.
Happy viewing to all!!!