Film / To Sir, with Love
Trailers Always Lie. In this case, that's a crying shame. This is the poster for the US release as the term fresh in this context is unknown in the UK

To Sir, with Love is a 1967 British drama film starring Sidney Poitier that deals with social and racial issues in an inner city school. James Clavell both directed and wrote the film's screenplay, based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by E. R. Braithwaite. Sidney Poiter plays Mark Thackeray, a teacher originally from British Guiana, now Guyana, who recently moved from the United States. The plot primarily centers around Thackeray's idealism clashing with his teenage pupils' cynicism.

Poitier also starred in a 1996 TV sequel To Sir With Love II with a retired Thackeray leaving London to teach in an inner city high school in Chicago. It was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and featured brief cameos from actors Judy Geeson and Lulu reprising their original roles.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change: ER Braithwaite becomes Mark Thackeray.
  • Apathetic Teacher: Mr. Weston.
  • Bowdlerise: The movie downplays an ongoing theme of Braithwaite's book, the hidden racism in British society. The book opens with a woman refusing to sit next to Braithwaite on a bus, whereas the movie has two women cheerfully joking with Thackeray. There's also no mention that the reason he's working as a teacher in the first place is no-one will give him a job as an engineer, despite being better qualified than most white applicants.
  • Cool Teacher: The class eventually sees Thackeray as this.
  • Defeat Means Respect: Denham remains stubbornly opposed to Thackeray even after the other students have accepted him. Then he goads Thackeray into a boxing match and gets knocked down with a gut punch. After that (and after Thackeray suggests getting a job teaching the younger students to box), Denham openly expresses his admiration to the rest of the class.
  • Eureka Moment: Thackeray has one of these after finding the "disgusting object". He heads into the staff room, rants angrily about his students to the female teacher, and halfway through realizes that the lessons he's been teaching them are absolutely useless for preparing the class for adulthood.
  • Guyana: Thackeray's country of origin.
  • Heel Realization: The class after Thackeray blasts them for their behavior.
  • High Turnover Rate: Thackeray was the latest in a long line of teachers to attempt to teach the class.
  • Hot for Teacher: An example where the teacher is somewhat disturbed to learn that his student has a crush on him.
  • I Choose to Stay: The film ends with Thackeray ripping up his acceptance letter for an engineering job, choosing to remain a teacher.
  • Inner City School:
    • The British version of one, working-class kids with a few minorities.
    • The one in the sequel was located in Chicago with a mix of Black, White and Hispanic kids.
  • Not So Different: When the students ask what he could know about being poor, Thackeray says that he's been flat-broke, and reveals that he didn't always have a posh accent either.
  • Only in It for the Money: Thackeray only applies for the job because he can't get a job as an engineer.
  • Photo Montage: When Thackeray takes the kids to a museum, set to the Title Tune by Lulu.
  • Primal Scene: Pamela's mother sheepishly admits that she and her daughter are estranged because Pam walked in on her with one of her boyfriends.
  • Rage Breaking Point: After calmly enduring all the disruptions and disrespect, Thackeray unleashes his anger when he sees that the smoking classroom heater is because of a "disgusting object" the female students put in it. (It's not identified in the film, but in the novel it's a used sanitary napkin.)
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Thackeray occasionally does this, starting with a rant about how sluttish and unladylike the female students are after the incident mentioned above.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Inverted. Braithwaite' s courtship of and eventual engagement to Gillian is downgraded to him being oblivious to her obvious interest in him. Though a line from the sequel indicates that they married.
  • Save Our Students: Thackeray's goal.
  • Slut-Shaming: Literally in the example cited above, when Thackeray tells the girls how sickened he is by their "sluttish behavior" and that "only a filthy slut would have done such a thing". He never uses the word again but later, there are milder examples as he gently, but firmly urges the girls to pay more attention to their personal hygiene and manner of dress.
  • Sound Effect Bleep: There is one point where one of the students curse and get drowned out by the noise of a passing train.
  • Stern Teacher: Thackeray takes this stance at times.
  • They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Thackeray insists on the students calling him 'Sir", but returns the favor by call them "Miss" or "Mr" and insisting that they do the same when talking to each other.
  • Title Drop: Thackeray is given a coffee cup (an unidentified object in the novel) with the title on the side, as Lulu performs the song in character for him.
  • Tranquil Fury: Even when he loses his temper, Thackeray remains eloquent and doesn't resort to cursing, which surprises his students.
  • Where Da White Women At?: Inverted. It's one of Thackeray's students who develops a crush on him. Meanwhile, he's oblivious to the similar feelings of one of his fellow teachers. Which is even more of an inversion, as in real life, Braithwaite married her.