"Good morning, Miss Dove" was a major and pleasant surprise to me. I expected an over- sentimental, although well-made, movie. On the contrary, I discovered that there is a subtext of sense of humor, and the many psychological subtleties and finesses are even more relevant than sentimentalism. Of course, I do not deny that I was deeply touched by this extraordinary, wonderful woman, Miss Dove.
Miss Dove is the essence of the movie, and even the sense of humor is based on her. Her pride, her aloofness, her deep conviction to be always right, her refined, elegant and slightly ironic way of talking that never weavers, not even in dire straits, make Miss Dove a comic character, in some sense. And we see that she looks at her own over-the-top strictness with a dose of self-irony.
Miss Dove's mission as a teacher is based on a steel principle: all her pupils are equal. Any partiality is just inconceivable. Actually, she cannot help to have a particular love for some of them, especially for Bill. When, after his service in the Marine Corps, the grown-up Bill says to Miss Dove that he wants to use his saved money to complete his studies, she plainly hides her inner joy. Why? Clear: to show joy, even much time after the school-years, would mean to be partial toward her "William" (a delightful, even poetic subtlety is that Miss Dove never calls the kids by nick-name). However, at the hospital she finally affords herself to show a preference. She asks all her flowers to be distributed to the other patients, and she just takes in her room the flowers sent by her beloved, favorite "son" Bill.
Miss Dove is a genius of psychology. The equal-for-all discipline is the canvas where she paints with masterly touches. She never preaches, her own behavior shows the right way. When she sees that the little Jewish Maurice is ill-used by the other kids, she doesn't utter a (probably useless) sermon on xenophobia. She just asks Maurice to accompany her, helping to bring her books, thus showing to everybody how much she cares for the little stranger. Then it's up to the kids to understand the lesson. This episode is related to a beautiful finesse of the movie. We see Mr. Levine, Maurice's father, terribly upset and worried at Miss Dove's illness. Thus we get that, less fortunate than his son, Mr. Levine has long experimented the horrors of anti-Semitism in Europe. So he is fully aware of and grateful for Miss Dove's precious job, even more than his son.
Another great psychological job is the way Miss Dove, talking with Bill, praises Billie Jean's skills and humanity as a nurse. That's enough for Bill to learn the lesson, that is to overcome his prejudices (which coincide with her own prejudices; so, after all, even Miss Dove has something to learn). Particularly poignant is the shy, humble admiration and love paid by Billie Jean to her former teacher. That is mirrored by the nurse's naive attempts to imitate Miss Dove's elegant talk and perfect poise, which give rise both to fun and to emotion.
Some characters are conventional, others are not fully convincing, like that of the gangster Makepeace. However, this guy is instrumental in showing that Miss Dove never condemns the human being. The film is permeated with positive messages: patriotism, dignity, respect, honor, love for learning, sense of community, gratitude. I will be the very last to be displeased by that. Sometimes the sentimentalism is far-fetched. I consider it a minor fault of the movie.
Jennifer Jones as Miss Dove is just sensational. The remainder of the cast works very well, especially Peggy Knudsen as Billie Jean, in my opinion.
Let me conclude remarking a great poetic image. The little girl, from the top of the tree she has climbed (a wonderful symbol of innocence and freedom), stares with a stunned look at Miss Dove carried away by the priest and the doctor. What's up? The indestructible teacher has something wrong? Impossible...
Like the people of Liberty Hill, we all love Miss Dove, this wonderful woman, this mother of one thousand children. To enjoy this extraordinary character, I strongly recommend "Good morning, Miss Dove".