Goodbye, Miss Turlock (1948)
Ten years after his first Oscar-winning film, John Nesbitt produced, wrote, and narrated his last Oscar Winner.
Goodbye, Miss Turlock is set against the backdrop of the social changes that America faced as the country marched towards the second half of the twentieth century. For decades, the one-room “little red schoolhouse” was a symbol of rural education in America. The expansion of highways and other changes in rural life made bussing children to larger schools make more sense. And so America’s rural one-room schools were slowly passing away. This short focuses on one of these schools, whose teacher was Miss Turlock.
The film spends a few minutes with Miss Turlock, who is viewed by her young students as harsh and stern, except to a boy who the narrator described as “slow.” The film in its short-running length shows the reality of Miss Turlock, something many of her students didn’t figure out until adulthood. The movie’s closing is sweet and sentimental in a way that calls to mind longer films like Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Cheers for Miss Bishop.
Goodbye, Miss Turlock has all the hallmarks of the best Nesbitt short. Great and moving narration with a touch of humor, solid silent acting that uses body language and facial expressions to sell scenes, and some nice editing work.
The film is the most sentimental of the five Oscar-Winners. But it’s important to be just as clear what it’s not. It’s not a film that’s resisting the end of the red schoolhouse or complaining about it. Rather, it’s honoring the schoolhouse and those who taught in them. The film is a salute to the passing of a way of life with no judgment on what came after.
Appropriately, even as the little red schoolhouse was nearing its end, so was John Nesbitt’s passing parade. The last of Nesbitt’s seventy-two short films for MGM would be released in 1949 and in 1951, The Passing Parade would pass from radio.
So much of Nesbitt’s radio work has been lost to the ages. However, that which survives, coupled with his short films, showcases his talent as a storyteller and his gift for speaking to the hearts of listeners and viewers. And in many cases, that gift can even bridge the chasm of time.
Goodbye, Miss Turlock is currently available on YouTube