Classic Cinema Spotlight: Up The Down Staircase

A Vintage Nerd

Up The Down Staircase  (1967) is one of the inspirational and thought provoking teacher movies that I recommended a short while ago on my post Movie Madness Monday: Dedicated Teachers. I re-watched it again this week for the hoot of it and found it as refreshing as I did the first time around.

This film came out before To Sir, With Love and seemed to be somewhat forgotten after the mega success of the latter film. To Sir, With Love had the popular Sidney Poitier in it as well as a hit song attached to the film. I think those two factors affected the success of this film. It was based on a book by the same name, written in 1965 by a former teacher.

In comparing the two, I found this film to be more raw and realistic to how the public school was then. To Sir, With Love will always be my favorite teacher movie but this one really touched my heart in a way that I didn't expect.

Sylvia Barrett (Sandy Dennis) is an idealistic first year teacher whose experience at a public high school tests her devotion to teaching and makes her question whether she's cut out for teaching at all. Ms. Barrett faces oodles of bureaucracy, endless paperwork, burnt out administration, and one or two possible off the hinge students.

Up The Down Staircase
Up The Down Staircase
Up The Down Staircase
Up The Down Staircase
Up The Down Staircase

This film is refreshing in that it shows a point of view of teaching that isn't often seen. You see the struggles. the disappointments, the fears and worries. The supporting cast was really wonderful as well. Some believe this was Dennis's best performance as an actress. I have to say she was incredibly believable and now I want to add this film to my classic film dvd collection!

Have you ever seen this film? Ever wondered what the school system was like in the past? Did you have a teacher who tried to get a good message across to their students despite the odds against them?


  1. I've not only seen this film, I was in the play once, so it's particularly near and dear to my heart! Sandy Dennis does do just a splendid job as Ms. Barrett.


    1. Oh Jenny that is so neat! I am sure you were amazing! xox

  2. Hello!
    I have not (yet) seen the film, but I will. Honestly. :)
    Have I seen the struggles and worries of ateacher? I have seen struggles and worries of TWO teachers, since both my mom and my dad were teachers (now both retired). It'a heavenly duty, but it's ever so hard..


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