Cheers for Miss Bishop

Cheers for Miss Bishop is a 1941 drama film based on the novel Miss Bishop by Bess Streeter Aldrich. It was directed by Tay Garnett and stars Martha Scott in the title role. The other cast members include William Gargan, Edmund Gwenn, Sterling Holloway, Dorothy Peterson, Marsha Hunt, Don Douglas, and Sidney Blackmer. This film marked the debut of Rosemary DeCamp. Cheers for Miss Bishop was produced by Richard A. Rowland and released through United Artists.

Cheers for Miss Bishop
scene from film
Directed byTay Garnett
Produced byRichard A. Rowland
Screenplay byStephen Vincent Benet
Sheridan Gibney
Adelaide Heilbron
Based onMiss Bishop
1933 novel
by Bess Streeter Aldrich
StarringMartha Scott
William Gargan
Music byEdward Ward
CinematographyHal Mohr
Edited byWilliam F. Claxton
Richard A. Rowland Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • February 21, 1941 (1941-02-21) (United States)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States


Miss Ella Bishop (Martha Scott) is a teacher at Midwestern University. The story is told in flashback and takes place over many years, from the 1880s to the 1930s, showing her from her freshman year to her retirement as an old woman. At the beginning, she lives with her mother and her vixenish cousin Amy (Mary Anderson); she remembers when her father had a farm near the town. Ella is an inhibited girl whose frustration grows as she approaches womanhood. She dreams of becoming a teacher. When she graduates from Midwestern University, she is thrilled when its president, Professor Corcoran (Edmund Gwenn), offers her a position on the faculty.

Ella becomes engaged to lawyer Delbert Thompson (Don Douglas), but Delbert is led astray by Amy and eventually has to marry her, despite loving Ella. The couple move away. After Amy becomes pregnant, Delbert abandons her. Amy dies in childbirth, leaving Ella to care for Amy's daughter Hope (Marsha Hunt). Hope grows up and marries Richard (John Archer), and they move away and have a daughter named Gretchen (Lois Ranson). Ella also has a fling with another teacher, the unhappily married John Stevens (Sidney Blackmer), but John's wife cannot give him a divorce for religious reasons, forcing Ella to break off the relationship. Later, she is distressed to learn that John has been killed.

Through all the years, Ella is supported by her friend Sam Peters (William Gargan), a local grocer who loves her. Another source of support is Professor Corcoran, who persuades her to stay when she considers leaving. His death is a blow to Ella.

As Ella reaches old age, she reflects back and realizes she allowed the years to go by without achieving what she believes to be true fulfillment. When the new president pressures her to finally retire, she agrees. However, the years have not been without glory; and her moment of triumph arrives when her numerous, now-famous students from over the years return to a testimonial dinner at the school to honor their beloved Miss Bishop.



During the 1940s, Cheers for Miss Bishop is noted as one of the first films to incorporate autobiographical voiceover in its use of the flashback.[1] The film begins with Sam and Ella in their older ages leading Ella into a flashback of her life starting with her graduation from Midwestern University. Then the film switches between the 1880s to 1930s with occasional autobiographical voice-overs of Ella in the 1930s speaking about the current scene. This film was one of the first to explore the use of voice-overs to narrate the story. In addition to the voice-overs, the film uses fading transitions that look hypnotic to symbolize the change in time. The makeup director, Don L. Cash, was able to age the actors using makeup making the change in time more distinguishable. Another technology the director used was dollies to capture moving motion and to zoom out of scenes.


At the end of the novel, it can be concluded that even though Ella felt that she never reached full fulfillment in terms of love, her effect on her students is enough to make her life purposeful. Through Ella’s relationship with her students, it is apparent that she genuinely cares for her students. This even leads her to go out of her way to prove that one of her students did not cheat. This movie demonstrated the immense effect teachers have on the development of people.


Cheers for Miss Bishop was adapted as a radio play on the March 17, 1941, broadcast of Lux Radio Theater with Martha Scott and William Gargan reprising their film roles and on the November 6, 1946, broadcast of Academy Award Theater starring Olivia de Havilland.[2] Scott also reprised the role in a radio adaptation for Hallmark Playhouse in 1949.


Cheers for Miss Bishop earned Edward Ward an Academy Award nomination for Best Scoring of a Dramatic Film. He was also nominated for scoring two other 1941 films, Tanks a Million and All-American Co-Ed. Ward earned seven Oscar nominations between 1939 and 1944, including one for the score of Phantom of the Opera (1943).[3]


  1. Bordwell, David (2017-10-02). Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226487892.
  2. "Academy Star". Harrisburg Telegraph. November 2, 1946. p. 19. Retrieved September 29, 2015 via
  3. "Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941) - Articles -". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
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