Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier scored his first film success as a belligerent student in The Blackboard Jungle (1955). In To Sir With Love, he returned to the classroom – but to the other side of the desk – to portray a novice teacher in charge of a rough and rowdy class of undisciplined working-class punks in this classic film that reflected some of the problems and fears of teens in the ’60’s.
Poitier gives one of his finest performances as Mark Thackeray, an out-of-work engineer from Guyana who turns to teaching in London’s tough East End.
The graduating class, led by Denham (Christian Roberts), Pamela (Judy Geeson) and Barbara (Lulu), sets out to destroy Thackeray as they did his predecessor by breaking his spirit.
But Thackeray, no stranger to hostility, meets the challenge by treating the students as young adults who will soon enter a workforce where they must stand or fall on their own.
The students are undisciplined “problem” youngsters who do not fit in with normal school curriculum. They are in their final term – the last chance a teacher will get to impart any kind of lasting influence.
Thackeray tries to see past their unruly rebellious behaviour and treats them as young adults and not brats.
Gradually, and after being forced to physically fight the class bully, he gives them a new outlook and awareness of their responsibility.
When offered an engineering job, Thackeray must decide if he wants to stay.
The warm, human story is sometimes dramatic, occasionally sad and often wildly funny. Its approach is modern and upbeat.
Making her screen debut, Lulu (The hippest 13-year-old ever to break the top 10 charts on both sides of the Atlantic) also sings the title song and a number of other great songs along with the band, The Mindbenders.