“Do you remember those boyhood days when going to college was greater than going to Congress- and you’d rather be Right Tackle than President?”
The Freshman glorifies being in college. Maybe back in 1925 going to college was a glorious thing but today it is utter misery. I have been in college more years than I care to reveal. Undergrad took way too long to complete thanks to the people working at the college be asses and now my Masters is almost unbearable to handle and I am only taking three damn classes! Just like some teen movies of today make college look like a never ending party The Freshman makes college look like a wholesome fun time for a young 1920s man.
Harold Lamb (Harold Lloyd) has been dreaming about going to college. His mother tells his father that Harold went to see a film called “The College Hero” six times the previous day. Harold dreams about being voted the most popular man at college just like the character Speedy from the movie and Chet Trask from the school he will be going to. He even learns the handshake/dance that Speedy does in the film. He goes to the town college Tate University, a “large stadium with a school attached.” On the train to school he is seated next to a girl named Peggy (Jobyna Rolston) who has a job working with her mother at the Tate Hotel.
When Harold gets off the train he sees Chet and is dumbstruck. Some of the older students see Harold do his handshake routine and decide to make fun of him. Harold is standing next to the train when a passenger throws their match out and it lands on Harold’s sweater. The passenger knocks him on the back to get the match off. Harold thinks the man standing behind him hit him and smacks the man. The man turns out to be the dean of the university. The two older students tell Harold to get a ride to campus in a car. They trick him into going into the car that belongs to the dean.
At school Harold is further humiliated. He unknowingly walks onto the stage where the dean is to give his beginning of the year speech. He sees a kitten atop the curtain rod and climbs a ladder to get it. The older students mess with him even more and pull the curtain back. Everyone in the auditorium laughs at him. One of the older students tells Harold that he has to give a speech all the freshmen have to do it. The students laugh at him and do so even more when he reads his notes from the movie and tells the whole school to call him “Speedy.”
Since Harold spent most of his saved money ($458 dollars which would equal two texts books today depending on your major) on buying ice cream for half the college he has to stay at the town hotel. As Harold dusts off a mirror he sees Peggy standing behind him. They are very happy to see each other. The following day Harold’s picture is in the Tate Tattler for buying students ice cream. He cuts out the clip and puts it on the wall next to his photograph of Chet. Peggy sees his photograph too and she cuts it out for herself without the article attached.
Someone tells Harold he will never be as popular as Chet since he is not on the football team. Harold goes to try out and it is one mishap after another. At one point he gets used as the tackling dummy since it fell apart and the team really needed to practice tackling. He keeps taking the hits until practice is over. After practice he even takes in the dummy and other equipment. The coach tells Chet that he likes Harold’s spirit but he cannot put him on the team. Chet suggests making Harold a water boy but to tell him that he made the team as a substitute. Peggy overhears what the team is doing to him. She defends Harold to the ones talking about him. When she goes to tell Harold about what is happening she cannot bring herself to do so after seeing how happy he is. She cannot break his heart.
Harold reads about the Fall Frolic and how Chet hosted it the year before and he was voted most popular. He decides to host the Frolic at the hotel. Peggy sees everyone laughing at him when they get the invitations. Harold’s suit is not finished on time and it falls apart all night. As he is dancing he sees Peggy admiring the flowers he bought for her. He goes up to her and gives her a hug and kiss and they are both happy. During the Frolic Harold looks over to Peggy and sees someone is bothering her trying to kiss her. He goes over and punches the guy. The guy is so mad he tells Harold that he is the college boob everyone makes fun of him. He looks over and sees someone on top of a table making fun of his handshake. Harold pretends that what the guy said does not bother him at first but then he breaks down into Peggy’s lap. She tells him to stop pretending to be what he is not and to be himself. He thinks if only he can get into the big game and prove himself that then he will be popular.
At the game the following day all the boys on the team get getting hurt. Harold gets called onto the field but it is only to give one of the other boys his shirt when the boy’s shirt ripped into shreds. The coach tells Harold about him only being a water boy. Harold blows up that he has been fighting for a chance to play. Someone comes over that a substitute has to come onto the field or the game will be forfeited. The coach reluctantly puts Harold on the field.
Needless to say after some wacky and confusing playing Harold winds up winning the big game for the college and becomes very popular on campus.
The Freshman was cute. I like Harold Lloyd’s films because he played characters that were real. Everyone knows a dorky kid like Harold. This film reminded me more of someone in high school than someone in college but I thought it was real. Harold had high expectations of becoming popular in college and being a hero. I think we have all had dreams where we are popular and win something big for school or do something really awesome and outstanding (In college I wanted to be one of the cool kids in the film program and write about movies for the school paper… that did not happen… well to a certain extent not the way I really wanted it to). The Freshman has its scenes where they drag on forever but for the most part it was very entertaining and very cute. The Freshman is available to view in full on Youtube and I highly suggest seeing it.