For this week’s “Things That Bring Back Memories” post, I am going to pick something in the topic of “MOVIES” and go with “Dead Poets Society“. This movie was released in 1989, and was one that so many remember that were from “back in the day”.
Dead Poets Society was one that some people really loved, and others just didn’t understand. I think that the main points of the movie really focused on what a lot of us were going through during the high school, or college times of our life. Wanting to learn, daring to be different and being told by many that what you were doing was wrong, even though it wasn’t. The main base of this story being “Carpe Diem” was always one that my friends and I tried to live by. Like you hear so often…”live for today, because tomorrow may never come.”
If, for some reason, you are of an age that makes it difficult to remember the Dead Poets Society movie, here’s a preview of what it was about:
Did you ever watch the Dead Poets Society movie when you were younger? or have you seen it on TV or Netflix later in life? Let me know what you thought of it, and if you have any memories of it in your life!
More Info on the Movie:
Dead Poets Society is a 1989 American drama film written by Tom Schulman, directed by Peter Weir and starring Robin Williams. Set at the conservative and aristocratic Welton Academy in the northeast United States in 1959, it tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry.
The film received critical acclaim and box office success; it was also BAFTA’s best film and best foreign film in France and Italy. Schulman received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his work.
In 1959, shy Todd Anderson (Ethan Hawke) begins his senior year of high school at Welton Academy, an elite prep boarding school. He is assigned one of Welton’s most promising students, Neil Perry (Robert Sean Leonard), as his roommate and is quickly accepted by Neil’s friends: romantic Knox Overstreet (Josh Charles), overachiever Richard Cameron (Dylan Kussman), best friends Steven Meeks (Allelon Ruggiero) and Gerard Pitts (James Waterston), and mischievous beatnik Charlie Dalton (Gale Hansen).
On the first day of classes, they are surprised by the unorthodox teaching methods of their new English teacher, John Keating (Robin Williams), a Welton alumnus who encourages his students to “make your lives extraordinary”, a sentiment he summarizes with the Latin expression carpe diem (“seize the day”). His subsequent lessons include standing on his desk to teach the boys how they must look at life in a different way, telling them to rip out the introduction of their poetry books which explains a mathematical formula used for rating poetry, and inviting them to make up their own style of walking in a courtyard to encourage them to be individuals. His methods attract the suspicious attention of the strict Headmaster, Gale Nolan (Norman Lloyd).
Upon learning that Keating was a member of the unsanctioned group the Dead Poets’ Society while he was at Welton, Neil restarts the club and he and his friends sneak off campus at night to a cave where they read poetry and verse, including their own compositions. As the school year progresses, Keating’s lessons and their involvement with the club encourage them to live their lives on their own terms. Knox pursues Chris Noel, a girl who is dating a football player and whose family is friends with his. Neil discovers his love of acting and gets the lead in a local production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, despite the fact that his domineering father (Kurtwood Smith) wants him to go to medical school. Keating also helps Todd come out of his shell and realize his potential when he takes him through an exercise in self-expression, resulting in his composing a poem spontaneously in front of the class.
Charlie, however, takes the inspiration and Keating’s teachings too far, publishing an article in the school newspaper in the name of the Dead Poets Society which demands that girls be admitted to Welton. Nolan uses corporal punishment to force Charlie to tell him who else is in the Dead Poets Society, but he refuses. Nolan also speaks to Keating, warning him that he should discourage his students from questioning authority.
Neil’s father discovers Neil’s involvement in the play and tells him to quit on the eve of the opening performance. Devastated, Neil goes to Keating, who advises him to stand his ground and prove to his father that his love of acting is something he takes seriously. When Keating asks the next day if Neil has spoken to his father, Neil lies and says that his father will let him pursue an acting career provided that he keeps up with his schoolwork. He discovers he is wrong when his father unexpectedly shows up at the performance. He takes him home and tells him he is forcing him into military school so he can eventually go to Harvard University. Lacking the courage to stand up to his father, Neil commits suicide by secretly stealing his father’s gun and shooting himself in the head.
Nolan begins an investigation into Neil’s death, at the request of the Perry family. Cameron goes to him, blames Neil’s death on Keating to escape punishment for his own participation in the Dead Poets Society, and names Knox, Meeks, Pitts, Todd, Neil and Charlie as the other members. Later, confronted by Charlie, Cameron urges the rest of them to let Keating take the fall. Charlie punches Cameron and is later expelled. Each of the boys is called to Nolan’s office to sign a letter attesting to the truth of Cameron’s allegations, even though they know they are false. When Todd’s turn comes, he initially is reluctant to sign, but seeing that the others have complied, does so.
Keating is fired and Nolan takes over teaching the class. Keating interrupts the class to collect some personal articles, but before he leaves Todd shouts that all of them were forced to sign the letter that resulted in his dismissal and that Neil’s death wasn’t his fault. Nolan makes Keating leave, but before he can do so Todd stands on his desk and salutes Keating with the words “O Captain! My Captain!”. Knox, Meeks, Pitts and over half the rest of the class does the same, despite Nolan’s threats to expel them. Deeply touched by their gesture, Keating thanks the boys.
Some of the Characters:
Robin Williams (John Keating) was born on July 21st, 1951, in Chicago, Illinois, a great-great-grandson of Mississippi Governor and Senator, Anselm J. McLaurin. His mother, Laurie McLaurin, was a former model from Mississippi, and his father, Robert Fitzgerald Williams, was a Ford Motor Company executive from Indiana. Williams had English, German, French, Welsh, Irish, and Scottish ancestry. Robin briefly studied political science, before enrolling at Juilliard School to study theatre. After he left Juilliard, he performed in nightclubs where he was discovered for the role of “Mork, from Ork”, on two episodes of Happy Days (1974). These two guest-appearances (along with his comical nightclub performances, at the time between) led to his most famous spin-off weekly TV series, Mork & Mindy (1978). Williams’ continuous comedies and wild comic talents involved a great deal of improvisation, following in the footsteps of his idol Jonathan Winters. Williams has also proven to be an effective dramatic actor and received an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Good Will Hunting (1997). On Monday, August 11th, 2014, Robin Williams was found dead at his home in Tiburon, CA, the victim of an apparent suicide, according to the Marin County Sheriff’s Department. A 911 call was received, firefighters and paramedics arrived at his home, and he was pronounced dead. 😥
Robert Sean Leonard (Neil Perry) was born in Westland, New Jersey. He attended first Fordham University and then Columbia University. Afterwards he was accepted into the Screen Actor’s Guild, changing his middle name to ‘Sean’. Leonard’s first acting role was My Two Loves (1986) where he was cast in a small role. His next role is easily one of his most memorable. He took the second billing in Dead Poets Society (1989) opposite Robin Williams and Ethan Hawke. His character of Neil Perry is a young student whose passion for acting is smothered in fear of his father’s wrath and his parents’ domination of his life. While Robin Williams earned himself an Oscar nomination, Leonard gave a truly Oscar-worthy performance. Leonard’s work changed as the new millennium began. He turned to television as well as continuing film. He acted in the series The Outer Limits (1995) and Wasteland (1999) as well as making movies such as the dramatic film Tape (2001) by Richard Linklater, A Glimpse of Hell (2001) opposite James Caan, and the box office bomb Driven (2001) starring Sylvester Stallone and Burt Reynolds. After a few more films Leonard was cast in the series that gave him much fame.
Ethan Hawke (Todd Anderson) was born on November 6, 1970 in Austin, Texas, to Leslie Carole, a charity worker, and James Steven Hawke, an insurance actuary. His parents were students at the University of Texas at the time but divorced when Ethan was 5 years old. His mother raised him alone for the next five years, moving around the country, until she remarried in 1981 and the family settled in Princeton Junction, New Jersey. He attended West Windsor-Plainsboro High School and then transferred to the Hun School of Princeton and it was while he was there that he began taking acting classes at the McCarter Theatre on the Princeton campus. His early ambition had been to be a writer, but as a result of the acting lessons and appearances in student productions he persuaded his mother to allow him to attend an audition for a role in a sci-fi adolescent adventure, Explorers (1985). He got the part (along with River Phoenix) but although the movie was favourably reviewed, it met with little commercial success which discouraged Hawke from pursuing further movie roles for a few years. He was admitted to the prestigious Carnegie-Mellon University to study theatre but his studies were interrupted when he won his break-through role opposite Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society (1989) and he didn’t complete his degree. His subsequent acting career was a mix of theatre work (earning a number of awards and nominations, including a Tony nomination for his role in The Coast of Utopia at the Lincoln Center in New York), and a mix of “serious” and more commercial movies, notably Gattaca (1997) (where he met his first wife, Uma Thurman) and Training Day (2001). Meanwhile, he also pursued his childhood ambition and has written two novels and several screenplays.
Kurtwood Smith (Mr. Perry) was born in New Lisbon, Wisconsin, the son of Mabel Annette Lund and George Smith, whom Mabel Lund married after Kurtwood Smith’s biological father died serving in World War II. Smith’s mother was a fan of a country singer named Kurt (or Curt) in the early 1940s. However, she thought “Kurt Smith” was too short a name, so she added “wood” (“she just tacked it on to the end”, he said). Smith has said that he is likely the only Kurtwood. Smith grew up in the San Fernando Valley and graduated from Canoga Park High School of Canoga Park, California in 1961; he was class president in his senior year. Smith graduated from San Jose State College in 1965 with a B.A. and Stanford University in 1969 with an M.F.A. Before That ’70s Show his other roles included playing Mr. Sue on Fox’s “espionage comedy” The New Adventures of Beans Baxter from 1987-89. He also co-starred as the strict father of Robert Sean Leonard’s Neil in 1989’s Dead Poets Society. He made a number of appearances in the Star Trek franchise, playing the President of the Federation in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, a Cardassian named Thrax in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Things Past”, and a Krenim scientist named Annorax in the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Year of Hell”.
Did You Know?
Dead Poets Society was written by Tom Schulman, who also wrote Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and What About Bob? It was the first screenplay he sold to Hollywood, though not the first one he wrote—in fact, Schulman wrote four scripts before Dead Poets Society. The story is based in part on his experiences at Montgomery Bell Academy, a prep school in Nashville, Tennessee. Most of the characters were modeled on people he knew from real life.
The movie was originally going to be filmed in Rome, Georgia, but the director wanted snow to enhance the feel of a New England prep school. Since snow is expensive to replicate, they moved filming to Delaware, where snow is free.
When Williams first arrived on set, his portrayal of Keating was wooden and uncomfortable, so Weir suggested they improvise. He asked Williams what he wanted to “teach” the class, and he said Shakespeare. Then Williams did an improv of Marlon Brando and John Wayne doing Shakespeare, a scene that made it into the movie. After that, he relaxed into the role, and the movie started to work.
Since the characters in Dead Poets Society live in a boarding school, Weir had the boys room together so they could bond. He also made them study movies, radio shows, and music from the 1950’s.
When the boys show Professor Keating his old senior yearbook picture, it is, in reality, Robin Williams’s high school senior picture when he was a student at Redwood High School in Larkspur, California, north of San Francisco.
On Robin Williams’ death in 2014, the famous lines “O Captain! My Captain!” were used by many media houses for his memoirs.
Although set in 1959, the chemistry textbook the students use, “Chemistry: A Modern Course” by Robert Smoot, is copyrighted 1987.
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