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COLLEGE(director: James W. Horne; screenwriters: Bryan Foy/Carl Harbaugh; cinematographers: Bert Haines/Devereaux Jennings; editor: Sherman Kell; cast: Buster Keaton (Ronald), Anne Cornwall (Mary Haynes, The Girl), Flora Bramley (Her Friend), Harold Goodwin (Jeff, A rival), Snitz Edwards (The Dean), Carl Harbaugh (Crew Coach), Florence Turner (Ronald’s mother); Runtime: 65; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Joseph M. Schenck; Kino Video; 1927-silent)
“Minor Keaton slapstick comedy.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Filmed when Buster Keaton was at the top of his game; it was his next to last feature as an independent (Steamboat Bill, Jr. in 1928 was his last film as an independent) before he sold his soul to MGM for a fat weekly check and over the years watched his fame diminish, as studio interference stopped his creativity from flowing. College was the only film he used a double, as Olympic pole vaulter Lee Barnes did the vault into his girlfriend’s dorm room to save her from a kidnapper. James W. Horne (“The Green Archer”/”Way Out West”/”Bonnie Scotland”) does a serviceable job in directing this minor Keaton slapstick comedy. Screenwriters Bryan Foy and Carl Harbaugh borrow the story line from Harold Lloyd’s very popular The Freshman and manage to move it up a semester.

Buster plays a scholarly but haplessly awkward California high school grad, who loses his girlfriend Mary (Anne Cornwall) over his graduation class speech ripping into jocks as unimportant. To win her back the nerd enrolls at Clayton College, where she attends, and tries out for all the sports teams, but proves to be inept. Because tuition is expensive he gets a job as a soda jerk, but quits in humiliation when Mary is brought there by his wise guy frosh rival, super jock, Jeff (Harold Goodwin). Because of failing grades the dean (Snitz Edwards) calls him into his office, and when he hears he is neglecting his studies to win over a girl the bachelor empathizes with him and forces the crew coach to make him the coxswain on the rowing team. When the coach tries to drug his drink the day of the big race so he can replace him with a more competent crew man, Buster thwarts those plans and ends up on the winning rowing team. Now confident the former weakling boldly rescues Mary, who is forcibly held in her dorm room by his bully rival in an effort to make her marry him. It ends happily with Buster marrying Mary, but then quickly covers their long marriage as not being that blissful as it shows photographs of them growing old together.

The comedy was disappointing, except for a few athletic Buster turns that are gems (getting soaked while walking to his graduation and having his suit instantly shrink, the inept baseball player who has no concept of the game’s rules, the futile tryout to make the school’s decathlon team, as the colored waiter who is uncovered as a white man, and working as a soda jerk besides a real pro at it).

The film flopped at the box office, and never received much acclaim even after Buster was discovered by later critics as a genius.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”