The Freshman (1925)
The Freshman (1925)

Genre: Slapstick and Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 17 min.

Release Date: September 20th, 1925 MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Director: Fred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor Actors: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Brooks Benedict, James Anderson, Hazel Keener, Joseph Harrington, Pat Harmon

 


 

H

arold Lamb (Harold Lloyd) has sold washing machines for extra cash to go to college; he’s a very hopeful freshman who can’t think of anything but the experience of a higher education at Tate University in the fall. And these are the days back when going to college was a greater feat than going to congress. Lamb is further excited for the endeavor by a movie called “The College Hero,” starring Lester Laurel (James Anderson), lending a fancy introductory jig and a popular man for excessive idolization – which could threaten to ruin Harold’s high ideals of college.

And sure enough, the fall term includes many traditions and standard components – such as a bully, a belle, the top jock, and a nice girl, Peggy (Jobyna Ralston), who is perfect for Harold, if only he could get past his adolescent embarrassment and immaturity to see it. The unenlightened freshman must also contend with pranks and hazing, an uncomfortable meeting with the stuffy dean, a catastrophic opening address, and plenty of mishaps, which accentuate just how unprepared he is for the real deal, when his vision of college was formerly shaped only by the movies. “I’m just a regular fellow!”

In classic Lloyd fashion, everything goes wrong right from the start – merely from driving to the auditorium, speaking to his classmates, and rescuing a stray kitten. He’s an unfortunate klutz (managing to lightly electrocute himself on stage), a malleable dupe, and financially reckless when it comes to impressing others, but his inability to read situations unexpectedly transforms him into an immediately recognizable fellow – one who not only gains popularity but who also finds himself back in the presence of Peggy. Plus, a hint of grand romance enters the stage, brought on by the simplest of actions, such as sewing buttons back onto a shirt, and highlighted by the most potent of attitudes, such as sticking up for Harold when he’s made the butt of a joke.

Just as poignant as the love story – which uncommonly finds Harold as the fashionable chap and Peggy getting left behind – is the slapstick, here focused predominantly on football antics, as Lamb believes that that particular macho sport will be his ticket to collegial stardom. However, his signature ineptitude finds him as a tackling dummy and the coach’s personal punching bag, though this keeps him on the field, even if it puts his health in harm’s way. Additionally, it ensures that he remains an underdog – a powerful status for a hero worth rooting for, especially combined with his indomitable spirit and the coach’s ruse to keep the freshman on the team as a mere waterboy.

The predicaments aren’t too severe, depicted in a cartoonish manner, allowing for skits with a dizzy tailor, a small baby, and an important dance, each providing mirth but failing to land major laughs – save for a more elaborate bit in which Lamb’s new suit falls apart piece by piece, requiring the tailor to make adjustments on the spot, if only the man can snag a drink to aid his stability. The creativity with this gimmick is spectacular – and perhaps an inspiration for a similar scene in “Bringing Up Baby,” during which Hepburn’s dress comes undone. By the end, it’s the ideas of prioritizing reputation (or faking it), humiliating the college boob, demanding an opportunity to demonstrate potential, and being true to oneself that remain most prominent, leading the way for redemption (as contrived as it may be, considering the injury rate in the big game, and the fact that Lamb is the only bespectacled baller) and success, further punctuated by on-field, physical shenanigans. But even amid the roughhousing, the unbelievable luck, and a considerable misunderstanding of the rules of the game, the romantic parting shots prove most memorable.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10