Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Overlooked Movies: Up the Down Staircase

When I read the other day that Bel Kaufman had turned 102, I immediately thought of how much I loved her book Up the Down Staircase and then the movie that followed.  They hit home with me because in the year the novel appeared (the movie came a couple of years later), I was in my second year of teaching.  The fact that I wasn't teaching in a school anything at all like the one in the book and movie didn't matter.  I identified strongly with a number of things that Kaufman wrote about and that the movie portrayed.  I think any beginning teacher would feel the same way.

Reading the book, I would never have guessed a movie could be made of it.  The book is told through a sort of collage or letters, p.a. announcements, signs, memos, notes passed in class, and so on.  But the movie got made, and it's really good.  What makes it good is the wonderful performances, particularly Sandy Dennis's as Sylvia Barrett, a beginning teacher in an inner-city school who's trying to cope with student don't seem to want an education and administrators who don't seem to have a clue.  Why would anybody take that job?  And who would keep it after seeing what it was like.  Sylvia Barrett plans to get out, but then she discovers that maybe she does have a purpose and a reason for being there.   

The trailer just below is a cheat.  It doesn't give you any real idea what the movie is like, but it's worth watching to see what things were like 50 years ago.  


pattinase (abbott) said...

Loved the book and movie and Sandy Dennis. She died so young.

Unknown said...

Far, far too young.