FRESHMAN, THE(director: Fred Newmeyer/Sam Taylor; screenwriters: John Grey/Sam Taylor/Tim Whelan/Ted Wilde/Harold Lloyd; cinematographer: Walter Lundin; editor: Allen McNeil; cast: Harold Lloyd (The Freshman, Harold ‘Speedy’ Lamb), Jobyna Ralston (Peggy), James Anderson (“Chet” Trask), Brooks Benedict (The College Cad), James Anderson (The College Hero), Hazel Keener (The College Belle), Joseph Harrington (The College Tailor), Pat Harmon (The Football Coach); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Harold Lloyd; New Line Home Video; 1925-silent)
“Matriculates enough to earn a passing grade.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor (“Hot Water”/”Safety Last”) direct this vintage Harold Lloyd physical comedy take on college life. His image as a regular guy wearing horn-rimmed glasses struck a chord with the public and by 1928 he was the richest dude in Hollywood. Back in the day of the silents he was acclaimed in the same breath with the great Chaplin and Keaton, but his peppy persona and square routine didn’t travel well into modern times and upon his death in 1971 he was largely a forgotten figure from the past. I never could quite warm up to him, but The Freshman is one of his better efforts and matriculates enough to earn a passing grade. It has a few assured set-pieces that puts it over the goal line (like the Fall Frolic school dance Harold throws where his baste-stitched tuxedo is coming apart while the tailor is following him around the dance floor to sew it back in place and the climactic football game at the end where Harold goes from waterboy to college football hero). Harold is the college boob who will do anything to be popular and is too self-absorbed to realize everyone’s laughing at him. The film gets over as appealing to the Walter Mitty-like masses but never climbs to any great heights, though it proved to be one of the comedians most popular and best remembered films.
Harold ‘Speedy’ Lamb (Harold Lloyd) is a freshman at Tate University, where the ambitious go-getter but awkward lad dreams of becoming popular as the ‘big man on campus.’ He mistakenly bases college life to be just like it’s pictured in the movies, thereby takes the nickname Speedy and does a fast-step jig whenever he’s introduced. From the money he earned selling washing machines, he treats everyone on campus to ice cream in an effort to buy friends. Upper-classman wise guy (Brooks Benedict) finds the naive freshman an easy mark to pull gags on that should embarrass him. Since Football captain Chet Trask (James Anderson) is the most popular guy on the campus, Harold emulates him by trying out for the football team. But he’s used as the tackling dummy. The coach (Pat Harmon) doesn’t have the heart to tell the spirited kid he’s not good enough for the team, so he keeps him on as waterboy and pretends he’s also a substitute. The only one who really likes Harold for himself is Peggy (Jobyna Ralston), who is the pretty nice girl cleaning lady in her mother’s boarding house where he resides and she also works as a coat-checker at the local hotel. Not able to bear that the man she loves is being mocked by everyone, Peggy tells him to be himself and not to pretend to act like someone else. It leads to the big game improbable heroics for Harold, who after getting into the football game (was partially filmed during a real contest at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl) because of injuries that deplete the bench, scores the winning goal and earns his popularity the old-fashioned way as well as the true love of Peggy.
REVIEWED ON 10/1/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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