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Plot:

Sylvia Barrett is a rookie teacher at New York’s inner-city Calvin Coolidge High: her lit classes are overcrowded, a window is broken, there’s no chalk, books arrive late. The administration is concerned mainly with forms and rules (there’s an up and a down staircase); bells ring at the wrong time. Nevertheless, she tries. How she handles the chaos and her despair in her first semester makes up the film: a promising student drops out, another sleeps through class, a girl with a crush on a male teacher gets suicidal, and a bright but troublesome student misunderstands Sylvia’s reaching out. A discussion of Dickens, parents’ night, and a mock trial highlight the term. Can she make it?

Also Known As: Su per la discesa, Tiltott lépcső, Luz de esperanzas, O Último Degrau, Zabranjene stepenice, Mot strømmen, Apigorevmena skalopatia, Ylös vääriä portaita, Вверх по лестнице, ведущей вниз Soviet, Förbjuden ingång, Up the Down Staircase, Up the down staircase East, Subindo por Onde se Desce, W góre po schodach w dól, Gegen den Strom die Treppe hinauf West, Contra corriente, Escalier interdit

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  • zeljka-kevo
    zeljka kevo

    Fresh from her acclaimed portrayal of the young professor’s frail alcoholic wife in Mike Nichols’ classic adaptation of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, Sandy Dennis starred in this forgotten 1967 drama that covers familiar territory in the movies, the idealistic high school teacher who must get through to a classroom full of unruly inner-city teens. Variations of the same storyline can be seen in a variety of films like “Stand and Deliver”, “Dangerous Minds”, the recent “Freedom Writers”, and another 1967 film, “To Sir, With Love” with Sidney Poitier. Resuscitated from obscurity in a 2007 DVD release, this one is surprisingly free of the predictable clichés that mar most of the films of this genre. Produced by Alan J. Pakula and directed by Robert Mulligan, the same team that made two of my favorites from the 1960’s, “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Love with the Proper Stranger”, this film forges its own identity as a positive yet realistic view of the common problems faced by an urban high school overrun with students, short on funds and run by administrators and teachers more interested in maintaining civility in the classrooms than providing an actual education.Into the chaos of Calvin Coolidge High School walks Sylvia Barrett, a young, inexperienced teacher intent on making a difference through the naïve methods she developed from her insular, college-trained perspective. You can figure out how her methods are initially greeted and how indifferent her fellow teachers have become to such optimism. However, she perseveres with a blend of patience and subtle defiance, and there is a wonderfully liberated scene where her students become enraptured by the opening paragraphs of Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”. As Miss Barrett gets to know her students and fellow teachers, so do we, and her personal journey leads to revelations that lend emotional resonance to the viewer thanks to Tad Mosel’s incisive, unsentimental screenplay (based on Bel Kaufman’s 1965 best-seller). Interestingly, we never see her life outside of school, which makes the drama within the school environs all the more compelling.Known for her idiosyncratic style and perpetually nervous manner, Dennis uses her unique style to strong effect resulting in a remarkably empathetic performance. Familiar faces dot the supporting cast – Eileen Heckart as a cheery teacher masking an inappropriate crush on a student, Jean Stapleton as a harried administrator, Roy Poole as the tough-minded principal, Sorrell Booke as the poker-faced superintendent, Ruth White as a veteran teacher who teaches Sylvia how to survive the urban jungle, and Florence Stanley as an unctuous, absurdly organized counselor. Looking like a cross between Sal Mineo and John Stamos, Jeff Howard, who later played bit parts in Hal Hartley’s films, cannily handles the role of a delinquent with potential, though Patrick Bedford somewhat overdoes his role as a lecherous teacher who dismisses a shy schoolgirl’s romantic advances. My only reservation is that the film runs a bit long at 124 minutes. The DVD’s only significant extra is the original theatrical trailer.

  • thomas-campbell
    thomas campbell

    As a former teacher in Title 1 School Districts I can attest that this movie fails to mirror reality on numerous levels. With “Up the Downstair case” we have simply established a meek, fragile and naive teacher attempting to begin her teacher career in a rough inner-city school district. Perspicously this is a fish out of water story where an idealistic person ventures into a realm far alien to her natural element. So the intrigue is to see how her challenges unfold in an environment filled with reprobates, corrupt faculty and chaos.In the end the ultimate conclusion brings forth a committed and dedicated soul who feels the altruistic need to nurture these young dregs. And when the situation arises she can rise to the occasion and make a difference in the lives of some people. Sandy Dennis is one of those actresses that always seems to be suffering from some form of anemia, as if she always has a cold. The casting is correct when you match her slight, waspish, and frail appearance next to the coarse creatures who inhabit the school, and she does look very out of place. Although her performance was admirable I didn’t find it realistic nor believable that she could have subsisted an entire year in those conditions.Inner city schools today are literally hopeless and an anathema to American society. Completely dysfunctional and replete with juvenile delinquents, Title 1 schools are virtually gang lands where decadent and anti-social behavior breed. Up the downstair case barely scratches the surfaces of today’s problems and conundrums pervading our urban landscapes. I am still waiting for a film that will accurately display an honest, forthright and succinct story where viewers can see the truth. The Principal (1987) with James Belushi focused more on the violence and ever present dangers in inner city schools, unfortunately a bit over the top it captures the feel and environment more truthfully. Up the Downstair case may be a valiant effort on one level of idealism, but it fails to present the real picture.

  • mladen-grguric
    mladen grguric

    Note: This is copied word for word out of the script for the play published by the Dramatic Publishing Company.SYLVIA BARRETT: She is a very sensitive and attractive teacher teaching her first class. She cares deeply about her profession, but has a wonderful sense of the absurd which is one way she clings on to her sanity. She has a resilient enthusiasm, a genuine concern for her students, and ultimately great strength.PAUL BARRINGER: He is a very handsome English teacher and accordingly much admired. In a sense his refuge is in being an unpublished writer, apparently poised to flee the school the moment his writing is published. His fear of involvement makes him appear insensitive.BEATRICE SHACHTER: She’s a little older than Sylvia and much more experienced. In spite of having “been through the mill,” she retains a great zest for both teaching and life. She is a natural “befriender” and can’t resist helping Sylvia in every way she can.J. J. MCHABE: “Administrative Assistant” is his title, but he’s the disciplinary force that holds the school together. His manner is strong, sometimes angry, and at times he would be considered a would-be dictator. That would be an unfair judgment however, as he goes about his job with a blazing determination.JOE FERONE: He’s a hostile, handsome young man with a high I.Q. but failing almost every class. He’s been hit hard by the world outside, so hard that he protects himself by expecting the worst out of every situation.

  • jerome-denis-munoz
    jerome denis munoz

    Having watched the film, it seems quite appropriate now that during one of its key sequences, schoolteacher Sandy Dennis is guiding her unruly English literature students through the famously antithetical opening of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale Of Two Cities”. That’s because the sheer glossiness of UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE makes its intended ‘realistic’ portrayal of the American school system self-defeatingly superficial. On the other hand, however, its cliché-ridden narrative – the troubled class punk is truly a highly intelligent individual, a sensitive soul bearing an unrequited love for the school’s playboy-teacher attempts suicide, a painfully shy student finally blossoms into a flamboyant actor, the schoolteacher eventually sticks her neck out for her put-upon students but, ungratefully, almost gets ‘raped’ into the bargain, she is about to quit her job but, naturally, thinks better of it at the end, etc. – is actually what makes it enjoyable viewing. It also helps that Sandy Dennis is very good in the lead, as she herself gains confidence in her dealings with the kids as the film moves along (to Fred Karlin’s playful score).

  • kumaar-nikhil
    kumaar nikhil

    Economic class is a touchy topic for America’s power-brokers. That’s because class cuts to the heart of how power and advantage gets distributed nationally. Moreover it cuts wider than racism since class affects whites as well as non-whites. In the movie there’s an attempt to deal with educational problems of an impoverished urban highschool. There, middle-class innocent Ms. Barrett (Dennis) begins her teaching career fresh from college. Ironically, however, it’s she who’s about to get an education in class realities, but of a different sort than what she’s trained for. Screen time is monopolized by her over- crowded classroom that at times borders on chaos. There, multi-racial teens engage in raucous antics while she bobs and weaves, forging ahead doggedly with lesson plans. Still, she’s instinctive enough to know the best approach is not to micro-manage, but to keep a lid on things before they get too unwieldy. But then, why should the kids pay attention since they’re basically trapped at societal bottom, viewing the teacher, rightly or wrongly, as an agent of the same system of entrapment. At the same time, administration is all about rules and enforcing them, which given the behavioral realities is, I guess, understandable. Too bad they can’t do much about what needs to be fixed, procured, or replaced. Instead, they’ve learned to live with things as they are, without challenging the higher-ups. Thus, from an institutional standpoint, all sides appear locked into role-playing, where the end product is more like societal processing than education. It’s this dead-end role-playing that the idealistic Barrett struggles against. Whether she will eventually be co-opted into the status-quo is, however, beyond the movie’s frame. I mention these points because I think they amount to a meaningful background to the on- screen drama. Significantly, these more general points are only briefly touched on in the screenplay. Thus we’re mainly left with the puzzle of uncaring student behavior without the societal context behind it.Then too, we see nothing of Barrett’s home life, where she lives or with whom. Also, apart from one rather unhelpful mother, we see nothing of the kids’ home life, though some home conditions are implied by random comments. Clearly, the movie wants to keep focus on the institutional setting. Thus, we get only impressions of individuals, and strictly through school interplay. In that regard, it’s a highly disciplined screenplay.The movie itself does a good job of engaging at the teacher-pupil-bureaucratic level. Dennis is excellent as the determined neophyte, but you may need a scorecard to keep up with all the teens and administrators. Plumpish Ellen O’Mara especially registers as a suicidal teen, made forlorn by an uncaring teacher (Bedford) who apparently sees the kids more as punctuation marks than as human beings. No wonder he rants abusively to Barrett’s class, before bolting from campus and his job. It’s also interesting to see how Barrett finally makes contact with her class by using a passage from Dickens. In a lively discussion, the kids are quite ready to talk about what’s wrong with things in their lives. Understandably, they’re much more responsive to give-and-take like this than to isolating assignments like book reports or essays.Of course, the admirable Ms Barrett manages to reach a few students by year’s end. And that, despite heavy misgivings, proves enough to sign on for a second year. Overall, it appears the story manages an eye-level contact with inner city high schools without too many commercial concessions. But one thing to keep in mind apart from the movie. Sure, some students will respond well enough to go on to college, and become tomorrow’s Ms. Barretts. Then they will go on to cope with tomorrow’s urban highschools. But, given that pattern, will anything basic change. And should we be content with that. In my little book, the movie remains a telling and provocative one.

  • sara-van-tuijl
    sara van tuijl

    Sandy Dennis plays a young teacher who is assigned to an inner city school in NYC in the early 1960s. You see here deal with tons of red tape at the school and students who don’t care.Based on a 1964 book written by an actual NYC teacher. The tone of the film (and book) is light but it doesn’t ignore the problems the students have. It offers no solutions but brings up some interesting questions. Shot at an actual NYC high school during the summer break which helps lead realism to the movie. All the acting is excellent.

  • raul-da-cruz
    raul da cruz

    Sandy Dennis is wonderfully sweet, innocent, naïve, optimistic and down-trodden in this 1967 movie about a young female English teacher in an inner-city New York high school. The theme I’m sure has been done a thousand times before, but Dennis’ acting gives a nice freshness to the story. However, it’s the story that bring this film down. With so many subplots, it’s not surprising that many of them are not finished up by the end of the film – or was that the point? The gritty sixties look is what makes this movie, and I dare anyone to not roll their eyes or giggle at the running gag of bureaucratic paperwork that fills so many scenes. It’s worth a watch, but don’t expect any great storyline. Although it feels very much like the pilot to a series, it’s more of a young woman’s graduation to fitting in – as well as the faculty’s anguish and acceptance – to a dilapidated school system than that of any of the students moving on.

  • grg-gautm
    grg gautm

    Up the Down Staircase is one in a series of films that explore the difficulties of teaching in an inner city high school. Its theme is that a caring teacher can make a difference in the life of a student, overcoming the sad realities and the fears that come with the territory.The Blackboard Jungle (1955) came before this film. Later came To Sir with Love, and Stand and Deliver. It sometimes seems unrealistic that a teacher in such a dangerous and discouraging environment could persevere and succeed. But we must remember that Stand and Deliver is a true story about a real teacher who achieved remarkable results.One reviewer called Sandy Dennis “quirky”. That description fits her, as well as some others in the film (Eileen Heckart, Jean Stapleton, etc.). The result is a feeling that the classroom–and the school in general–is teetering on the edge between success and failure.Another reviewer, a teacher, asserted that school environment portrayed in the film is unrealistic. I personally know a teacher who survived many years in the Trenton NJ school system and who daily regaled me with her stories about a ridiculously political and inept administration, inadequate supplies, and threats to personal safety. In this regard, the film is true.In the end, the truth is that many teachers who are employees of such systems do not deserve the name “teacher”, but only seek to survive another day with no concern for the students. But there are exceptional teachers, all the more remarkable because of their scarcity.Up the Down Staircase is not the best of this genre, but it honestly portrays the challenges of an inner city teacher. And it honors those teachers who care and persevere. I give it a “6”.

  • kriss-perkons
    kriss perkons

    I have been teaching since 1989, and I enjoy watching films based upon educators. ‘Up the Down Staircase” is one of the better movies dealing with the theme of the idealistic teacher beginning their career in an inner city high school. Sandy Dennis’ character study picks up where Glen Ford’s left off with “A Blackboard Jungle.” It interesting to see how things had stayed so much the same between 1955 and 1967 in New York City. I wonder if things have pretty much stayed the same these past 50 years. I saw this movie at the theater back in 1967 when it first came out. One thing I noticed when I watched this film in 2016 was the band playing at the high school dance was playing a Fifties style music that probably was pretty passes by 1967. The Beatles had been out for 3 or 4 years and the music would have been more modern. The kids are all wearing sport coats, ties and dresses at the dance was something that you wouldn’t see nowadays.

  • damian-schenk
    damian schenk

    I just saw this movie on Turner Classic Movies channel and I was drawn in by the gritty look and feel of the movie, as well as the tough guy attitudes of many of the students and the pretty new naive teacher that cares about them. Sandy Dennis is very cute and appealing to my eyes in this role. You almost expect that something really bad is going to happen to her in this South Philly style environment during the turbulent 60’s. All innocence is lost by this time in our history, and student uprising was part of the American culture. But, the movie takes you through the hallways, loud bells, and unruly classroom environment that students and teachers face daily at Calvin Coolidge high in a typical diverse middle lower to lower middle class neighborhood in the city. The principal does a good job of not taking flak from the students and the teacher is pushed to the edge of tolerance. An interesting and memorable film. Fab

  • tomas-cabezas-losada
    tomas cabezas losada

    If there’s any movie that one can automatically associate with Sandy Dennis, “Up the Down Staircase” is the one. True, she did win an Oscar for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” but that was mainly a Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor movie. I saw this one night on television sometime after her death, and became a huge fan. Actually, I think I may have seen it several times or more before, and forgot about it. I fell for everybody involved, from the late Sandy Dennis, to Bel Kaufman, to Fred Karlin, who’s musical score is one that I’m lucky to possess a copy of, and is long overdue to be re-released on Compact Disc. In addition, I also gained an appreciation for people like Jean Stapelton, and Sorrell Booke, who I previously couldn’t think of as anyone else but Edith Bunker, and Boss Hogg, respectively. Patrick Bedford, however, sounded like he was trying to be the new Cary Grant. I was almost ready for him to shout out…”SYLVIA, SYLVIA, SYLVIA!!!” And how about the kids? None of them went on to fame and fortune, except for But Cort, who I still can’t spot, but a few of them (Jeff Howard, Jose Rodriguez, Maria Landa, etc.,…) had roles as extras. It’s also a shame that Lew Wallach, who played as Lou Martin was never on screen again. He was hilarious.If you ever see a copy of this movie in a video store, pick it up. I did, and I’m glad.

  • catherine-silva
    catherine silva

    Watching SANDY DENNIS cope with the things any schoolteacher has to deal with when working in an overcrowded city school in the worst part of town, has to seem familiar to all those who’ve seen GLENN FORD face the same kind of hurdles in the much earlier THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE.This time the schoolteacher is a woman, a very naive, well-intended schoolteacher who wants to bring out the best in a classroom full of bored misfits who would rather be anywhere else than school. It’s based on a rather sketchy novel by Bel Kaufman, but Tad Mosel’s screenplay pulls all the strands together nicely and puts the central focus squarely on Miss Dennis (where it belongs) and her crusade to bring meaning into the lives of some needy students.Dennis is entirely up to the demands of such a role and gives one of her best portrayals. Eileen Heckart and Jean Stapleton do well in supporting roles but it’s Dennis who must carry the film and she does so with honesty, integrity and her own brand of quirky charm. The school atmosphere is well captured with much of the filming done inside a real city school that serves as Calvin Coolidge High School.Summing up: An altogether winning little film, largely forgotten, that should be more appreciated–still timely and relevant.

  • slavko-ignac
    slavko ignac

    I loved this movie, I watched it two times in two days as I dvr’d it from TCM. After watching it I ordered the book and purchased the movie. Sandy Dennis was so endearing in her role. It was so good that I also had to look up all of the actors and read their history and backgrounds etc. I usually do not go so overboard but this movie caught ahold of me. I was only two years old when it was released and do not know how I have gone for so long without seeing it but so glad I ran across it. You will not be disappointed with it. There were some familiar faces in the movie such as Jean Stapleton, Sorrell Booke and even Bernice from Fish 🙂

  • vijyaa-ddhiingraa
    vijyaa ddhiingraa

    If you ever stopped to think about it, what is life really about? Making a difference!!! Who likes adversity? On the other hand, adversity makes you aware of the fact that you are alive… For teachers, there are thousands and thousands of students out there who have a subconscious reliance on them!! Students bring on a bevy of inhibitions, fears, and acute human inadequacies which teachers have thrust upon them and become burdened with!! Kids have problems, as do adults, teenage problems are just different from adult problems, nonetheless, we all have problems, problems are what make us human!! Without challenges, we lack a rudimentary purpose!! This is what the movie “Up the Down Staircase” is all about!!Sandy Dennis plays the brand new teacher who is emotionally barraged by a bunch of reprobates (students) from the Bronx!! Who would want such a job? Evaluating Miss Barrett’s aggregate circumstances, back in 1967, teachers made so little money! In compounding this utterly deplorable situation, now descends the grief, the lack of funding for basic materials, the violence, the faculty/student apathy, and the overall administrative despondence!! Such an obstacle course makes the job of teaching in the inner city a living nightmare!!When does all of it end? Why doesn’t everyone who is teaching in this inner city rat trap just get the hell out of there, and focus on preserving their sanity!!! Miss Barrett (Sandy Dennis) quickly becomes an advocate of throwing in the towel!! Now strikes the proverbial and humanistic nerve cord which enlightens her, and makes her realize that at some level she has made a difference.. If you can communicate with one student at some time, and be told that you made a difference in their lives, you have been rewarded.. If you are able to conceptualize that a quality in a student is not ordinary because it is extraordinary, then you have attained a metamorphosis in human behavior that sparks a coveted gratification!!!Such a fate affected Sandy Dennis, and such a movie “Up the Down Staircase” articulated the importance of such an accomplishment!!! The director, Robert Mulligan (“To Kill A Mockingbird”) is one of the greatest directors in Hollywood!! The movie, “Up the Down Staircase” is very powerful in it’s ideological premise!! Sandy Dennis is remarkable in this film, of course, how can she top her performance in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”? Nevertheless, Sandy Dennis was superb in this movie!! The supporting actors and actresses in the film “Up the Down Staircase” did an excellent job as well!!! I very much endorse the idea of seeing this movie, definitely!!! The underlying realization of necessary challenges has a very intellectual cohesiveness in this film!! A must for educators!!! Without a doubt, one of the better efforts of the cinema!!

  • essaa-vphaadaar
    essaa vphaadaar

    I only saw about 3/4 of this on a boring Saturday afternoon on Channel 5 (not famed for the quality of the films it shows – more usually soft porn). As it was the only thing on telly worth watching (out of 144 channels – that figures) I decided to stick with it. I’m glad I did. It turned out to be quite entertaining. “Dangerous Minds” with Michelle Pfeiffer was on ITV the night before, and I don’t mind telling you that I thought UtDS was the superior movie. The acting was good all round, and though some of the lines were a little bit cliched and very 60’s, I thought it was OK.

  • alma-dzenis
    alma dzenis

    Rivals “To Sir, With Love” (released around the same time) as the best teacher film of all time. The difference: Sandy Dennis.Dennis was one of those actors they don’t make anymore (or at least don’t showcase in Hollywood in 2007). She was strange, quirky, not conventionally pretty and she had that quality a lot of new female teachers have-that deer in the headlights look that makes the viewer root for her to make it “work” with those tough students.The story is strong with some good subplots with the troubled students. It is dated but I would say the same issues facing Dennis here face contemporary teachers.I take Dennis to Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society” anyday.

  • samuel-vance
    samuel vance

    Sandy Dennis was realistic as the young idealistic teacher trying to cope in a traditional urban setting in “Up the Down Staircase,” based on Bel Kaufman’s best seller.You really have to be a teacher or at least know one to have any idea of what is going on in our public schools.Jean Stapleton’s Sadie Finch was perfect. As the school secretary, she thought she ran the place. She literally did being constantly on the intercom stating to ignore the continuously ringing fire alarms.To this very day, sadly, there is no solution to the problems of urban education. We try this program, this initiative, this idea-but nothing really works, when you have groups of students dedicated to the belief that nobody learns when they’re around in school. Having taught in the NYC school system for 32 years before my retirement, I have to say that the film offers an extremely realistic view of what is occurring. We have an assistant principal here who treats the teachers in the same way that the students are to be treated. He lashes out at them. Besides being highly unprofessional, how do these supervisors expect a teacher to command respect when they are spoken down to in front of students? My first principal of cherished memory often said that a teacher has succeeded if they can reach at least 5 pupils in the class. In that context, this film certainly succeeds. Of course, it’s unrealistic when we see this class of mostly losers catch on to Miss Barrett’s methods so quickly. We see a principal who seems to go through the motions when addressing a student assembly. Yet, Sorrell Booke, is very touching in that role when he explains to Sylvia Barrett (the late Sandy Dennis) that she is a good teacher and that there are better schools. The librarian and guidance counselor brought back memories to me. Frances Sternhagen, as the former, showed how uninvolved many school librarians are in the education process. The fact is that they are exempt from teaching classes and are in a world of their own. Ditto for guidance counselors who treat to their small offices with their files and psychological jargon. Florence Stanley was so appealing in that latter role. Patrick Bedford epitomized the cool teacher who was guilty of a serious infraction. When you’re free period 1, you still belong in the building as anything can happen as depicted. In New York City, our current school officials should see this excellent, endearing film.

  • sergei-nazarov
    sergei nazarov

    It’s hard to compare this movie with other films of the genre. “The Principal”, “Dangerous Minds”, “Lean on Me”, and “Stand and Deliver” really don’t have much in common with UtDS. Nevertheless, this film is very good and Sandy Dennis is outstanding as the young teacher who is starting out in a tough New York City high school.What makes UtDS unique is that there’s no focus on gang fights, or ghetto culture, or the teachers’ private lives. Instead, the story focuses almost entirely on the classroom. More specifically, it focuses on an English teacher (Dennis) and her students. That may seem boring, but this movie is anything but. The student characters are well developed and their relationships with each other, their parents, their teachers, and the school administrators are extremely realistic.Anyone who is tired of the mindless, inhuman **** being shown in multiplexes all over America should give this film a look. It’ll be a breath of fresh air. It’s a positive, intelligent, engrossing story.Unfortunately, it’s not likely to be in your local video store. But if you should have the rare opportunity of seeing UtDS – perhaps on premium cable or on a VHS tape from a public library – you will not be disappointed!

  • katja-tratnik
    katja tratnik

    What can I say? I read the book and enjoyed it. I saw the film and absolutely fell in love with it. I loved Sandy Dennis and her unique method of acting– yes, I know she sometimes stammered, but don’t we all in “real life?” I give high marks for Mulligan’s directing because the movie had so many wonderful facets: it could be funny, it could be disturbing, and it could be so moving. The penultimate scene with Jose in the auditorium was so touching, so meaningful, and yet so simple. But exceedingly powerful. I found myself relating to Dennis in every way. Her bewilderment at The System, her deep desire to reach her students, her frustration, her idealism, her disappointment. And, when she finally experiences a victory, her sincere gratification. One reviewer called the film “slick.” I don’t at all agree. It was subtle, meaningful, and true. And the other actors did such a superb job of acting that it all seemed unscripted. There was no sex, nudity, swearing– none of the things that today’s movies are so laden with. I have a theory that these gimmicks are used for shock value, as filler, or to cover up the inadequacies of the film makers. You can tell that those who made this film were classically educated because the movie’s foundation was strong and true. There wasn’t a wasted line nor a meaningless exchange. Just full, rich film making at its finest!! Make no mistake: a film needn’t be an action thriller or sexy to be compelling. I’m disappointed by today’s movies because they lack something: heart, soul, meaning– I’m not sure– but I liken them to “cinematic junk food.” So if you like pure cinema, see this film. (I don’t think there’s any comparison to “To Sir With Love,” by the way. The latter was entertaining, but that was about it.)

  • iyeongsu
    iyeongsu

    Reminds me of the wonderful movie “To Sir, with Love” starring Sidney Poitier, which came out one year earlier in 1966. Both have an academic setting and emphasize reaching difficult young adults through intellect and respect. The direction and the script on this one is somewhat darker, and scenes are allowed to build up suspense with realistic danger that comes very close to the edge. The film explores the spectrum of student characters and the delicate balance a teacher has with both students and faculty. A very hard to find film, I’ve seen it only once just after midnight and commercial free on a highly rated classic movie channel, Turner Classic Movies. I highly recommend at least one viewing of this great drama.

  • pedro-da-almeida
    pedro da almeida

    Similar to “To Sir With Love”, but well worth watching, a veritable symphony of characters. Each character is rather pathetic, but all of them together make something beautiful. What I particularly liked was its not wanting to prove anything, just telling a story about real people. And Sandy Dennis is her usual humane self. This intimate film has more glamor than flashier ones. It’s the glamor of grittiness and real life.

  • sarah-whitney
    sarah whitney

    I felt that I was watching reality even forty years later. I too aspired to be an English teacher like Sylvia Barrett. Sandy Dennis was a terrific actress and this film shows her ability and wide range. The cast features well known and familiar faces. Sylvia endures a stark reality of the urban teaching world. Schools in the poorest sections of New York City are still under funded. The Calvin Coolidge High School appears more like a prison than a school. The atmosphere reminds me of going to the unemployment office where its grim and depressing. How can anybody believe learning is going on? Of course not, schools are supposed to prepare our students for the future but are terribly let down. Today’s students believe technology will solve everything. We can’t teach how to think as teachers. This film should be shown to all aspiring teachers about the reality of urban school teaching.

  • damien-chapman
    damien chapman

    This film, directed by Robert Mulligan (To Kill A Mockingbird, Love With A Proper Stranger), portrays an idealistic teacher with a masters degree, Sandy Dennis as Sylvia Barrett, who takes the plunge into the teaching world of a multicultural but disadvantaged New York neighbourhood. The school is named after Calvin Coolidge, an irony given the urban and cultural mix that was so far removed from the life of the Vermont-born, Republican President of the 1920’s. I like the polaroid colour of film for the opening street scene at the time (1967) when Miss Barrett emerges from a bus into the hazy neighbourhood overflowing with high school students, who would have been the early baby boomers of the period, although with far less privilege than most. We see one lonely student try to commit suicide; another who falls asleep in class because he spends his evenings working on cars, his first love; another who believes Miss Barrett’s interest in after-school meetings is a come-on for time alone with him. Her class does their best to unhinge the new teacher on the opening day but Miss Barrett is gifted with resilience and patience. We get to know the staff in the school with moments of comic relief, such as when the staff meeting shows the teachers grouching about issues ranging from whose drawer belongs to who and when the proposed $7 million school is going to be built, if ever. Miss Barrett wants to make a difference for the students in her class. She knows that many of them have to climb a greasy pole to make a good life for themselves. She comes up against bureaucratic rules and teachers whose methods are more likely to reinforce the status quo. However, she is not one to shirk the challenge and one day, Miss Barrett tries to relate the world of Charles Dickens to their own and generates a tremendous enthusiasm that brings out an animated discussion about the Tale of Two Cities and “the best of times, the worst of times”. Nevertheless, the litany of woes and misunderstandings that constantly undermine her idealism eventually cause her to face the reality of the decision to teach in an inner city neighbourhood. Despite the drawbacks, she has tremendous support among the students, parents and staff. Sandy Dennis plays the part superbly and in the hands of a great director, we see a vivid portrait of an inner city school and a great teacher with ideals and spunk. To me, this movie is a classic, much under-rated in the history of American cinema.

  • dainius-galdikas
    dainius galdikas

    And there are many levels….The late Sandy Dennis gave a tour de force performance as the rookie teacher who not only enters where angels fear to tread- New York’s inner city Calvin Coolidge High School- but also has the guts to retain her compassion against overwhelming odds and even fight a system that would crush her students into urban oblivion. Her Sylvia Barrett is portrayed with nuance and grace that is a real pleasure to see.The large supporting cast is equally fine: Jeff Howard, as the tragically wasted Joe Ferone; Sorrell Booke, as the wryly humorous school principal, Dr. Bester; Jose Rodriguez, as Jose Rodriguez, the shy boy who quietly soaks in the value his new teacher has to offer. Patrick Bedford, as the frustrated writer, who breaks free of the trap he finds himself in. And there are many, many more.Tad Mosel’s script, based on the best-selling novel by Bel Kaufman, touches a wide range of human situations, dramatic, romantic, humorous. One of my favorite lines: Pupil: (As Miss Barrett instructs her class on taking mid-term exams.) “If you’re standing at the back of the room, how do we know who you’re watching?” Miss Barrett: (Correcting his grammar.) “Whom. ‘….Whom I’m watching.'”Robert Mulligan is a very underrated director with a long string of wonderful films, including To Kill A Mockingbird and The Stalking Moon, but Up The Down Staircase may be his best achievement. He brings together a microcosm of society- people, processes, authority, and the struggle against ignorance- all embodied in one small New York City neighborhood, and offers it up with wisdom and love.Fred Karlin’s highly original musical score provides whimsical counterpoint to the stark realism of the settings (all filmed on location) and reinforces the optimistic theme of the story, and yet retains a funky edginess to underscore the more serious moments of the film. I catch myself humming his tunes now and then.Sylvia Barrett is just a woman, an individual swept up- and nearly swept away- by the complexities of modern city life. But more than anything else, this movie is about courage- hers and that of her students.I first saw Up The Down Staircase in ’67, when I was in high school, and it’s stayed with me ever since. If only I had had a teacher like Syl Barrett! For all its realism, adversity, bureaucracy, and pessimism- and while not epic in scale- Up The Down Staircase remains one of the most inspiring, uplifting shows I know of. A triumph of the human spirit. Very highest rating.

  • kaale-vissnnu
    kaale vissnnu

    It’s a rare thing to watch a movie that’s actually superior to the original novel, but Robert Mulligan’s 1967 film of Bel Kaufman’s contemporary classic UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE is one of those rare instances. Make no mistake, Kaufman’s novel is still wonderful, but Mulligan’s film, amazingly, manages to capture all of the qualities that made Kaufman’s book such a compulsive read, and another strength is in the casting of the film itself. Everyone seems perfectly suited to his/her role. Sandy Dennis, one of the ’60’s most original and exciting performers, was the ideal choice to play the flighty heroine Miss Sylvia Barrett, the naive, but determined young New York City schoolteacher who finds herself constantly at odds with not only her pupils, but the faculty members as well. I have always had a great admiration for Sandy Dennis’ work, but this is the movie that made me a genuine fan. She’s absolutely breathtaking to watch. She has this stunning, captivating, and truly unique beauty, and most importantly, she is one of the most extraordinarily gifted actresses to grace the Hollywood screen. In fact, I would say that she was THE most talented actress of the late ’60’s, early ’70’s era without peer or rival. Her Oscar-winning supporting role in the previous year’s WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? was indeed a magnificent triumph, but UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE was the film that proved she was even more capable at handling a leading role and I think, ultimately, this is the film that made her a star.