Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941)

Phyllis finds an old movie she actually likes!


Released in the same year as Citizen Kane, Cheers for Miss Bishop is actually the superior film. While it's based on a brilliantly ambitious subject (newspaper megalomaniac William Randolph Hearst), Citizen Kane is, in truth, pretty damn boring to sit through.

Cheers for Miss Bishop's grand ambition lies in its sublime character development. It focuses on the life of an iconic female English professor (perfectly portrayed by the late, great Martha Scott) at fictional Midwestern University. Knockout gorgeous from her college years well into middle age, Ella Bishop falls hard for a pair of men who cannot marry her. The latter of these gents, a fellow professor, has a wife who won't divorce him owing to religious beliefs, so he offers to run off to Italy with Miss Bishop, but Ella decides her obligations at Midwestern are a higher priority than forbidden love abroad.

The closest Miss Bishop gets to avoiding old-maid status comes fresh out of college, with one Delbert Thompson. But sleazy Del fucks Ella's roommate, Amy, down by the river, knocks her up, marries her, then promptly splits, never to return. Psychotic nymph Amy dies during childbirth, leaving Miss Bishop to raise baby Hope, the spawn of her ex-fiancé and backstabbing whore roommate.

One man who would have Miss Bishop's hand is a chauffeur named Sam, but he ain't edumacated enough for Ella. This is a chink in Miss Bishop's otherwise unassailable character armor, as she obviously has feelings for Sam but won't marry him because of a subtle sense of class snobbery.

Ella Bishop's true love is her career -- a startling tack given the period during which this movie was released. As unconventional a love story as they come, Cheers for Miss Bishop is the movie Mr. Holland's Opus or Dangerous Minds only wish they could be: an inspiration to strong, independent teachers everywhere.

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.

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