Wednesday, September 15, 2021

The NFR Project: 'The Freshman' (1925)


The Freshman

Dir: Fred C Newmeyer, Sam Taylor

Scr: Sam Taylor, Ted Wilde, John Grey, Tim Whelan, Thomas J. Gray, Harold Lloyd

Phot: Walter Lundin

Ed: Allen McNeil

Premiere: Sept. 20, 1925

76 min.

Of the three great silent-era film comedians, Harold Lloyd was the friendliest. Chaplin played outsiders, and Keaton was a stone-faced magician. Lloyd was one of us, just someone who wanted to be successful and accepted.

The Freshman is Lloyd’s most successful and second-best-known film, after the iconic Safety Last! (1923). It inspired a spate of “college films,” and is an early example of a sports comedy as well.

Lloyd plays a naïve but energetic incoming university student. He dreams of being the college hero, and acts, foolishly, as his college-movie idol does. In fact he is quickly regarded as the college boob. His relentless optimism keeps him going, even when he endures humiliations such as a tuxedo that falls apart at a college dance, or serving as the football team’s tackling dummy. He makes it to the Big Game as a water boy, and when everyone is injured he takes his place on the field.

Lloyd’s character is right out of a Horatio Alger story – someone of god heart who, with luck and pluck, overcomes all obstacles and succeeds. His belief makes him a sap in the eyes of others, but it also elevates him to exactly the position of status he was after in the first place. It’s Lloyd’s innate goodness that keeps the audience on his side.

The NFR is one writer’s attempt to review all the films listed in the National Film Registry in chronological order. Next time: ‘The Gold Rush’.

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