Directed by Ronald Neame. UK. 1969.

Talking Pictures alias







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In 2008, teachers, students and pupils were asked by Teachers TV to vote for their favourite film that represented teaching in feature films. Over 100 films got a vote from 2,500 respondents, resulting in this Top Ten of Great School Movies:

1.      Dead Poets’ Society
2.      Kes
3.      School of Rock
4.      The Breakfast Club
5.      History Boys
6.      To Sir With Love
7.      Grease
8.      Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
9.      Gregory’s Girl
10.     The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Two years earlier, The Book Marketing Society, in association with The Guardian, conducted a national poll to find the best ever book to film adaptation. The winner was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and against strong competition, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark was included in the top fifty titles.

This shows the enduring impact of this film that centres on Miss Jean Brodie’s flamboyant teaching style at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls. In this austere setting Brodie (Maggie Smith) extols the virtues of love, joy and freedom. She is a free spirit who wants her ‘Brodie Girls’ to soar with her in flights of fancy away from the realities of 1930s Edinburgh.

Her presence seems like a fresh of breath air, but her own personal life is as erratic as her allegiance to the school curriculum. She has had a relationship with the Art teacher, Teddy Lloyd (Robert Stephens) who cannot help himself from painting every subject with a face like Brodie’s. He is a mediocre artist who uses art to seduce any young woman (or girl) who comes his way. Brodie now spurns his advances in favour of a more reliable teacher, Gordon Lowther played by Gordon Jackson. He wants a steady life and routine, which is in complete contrast to Lloyd.

Between these hapless men, all things Italian and most of all by Mussolini infatuate Brodie. In this mix, her headmistress (Celcia Johnson) is on the constant lookout to sack this wayward teacher who just will not abide by the rules. Brodie knows that one day someone will “assassinate” her; the surprise is that one of her most loyal pupils is the one that plunges this metaphorical knife into her back.

Maggie Smith is outstanding as Brodie who never realises that her romantic daydreaming can (and does) have tragic and real consequences. She has a great supporting cast and the film drives along at a cracking pace.

The new DVD of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie will be released on 02 August 2010. It includes US trailers and filmographies.

Cat No: AV9779

Certificate 12

RRP: £16.99

Nigel Watson
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