The Freshman (1925) Director: Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor
The Freshman is the original college satire film. It was Harold Lloyd’s second big hit comedy after Safety Last! in 1923. The film was shot at a variety of California college campuses, including USC. The sports teams featured at the close of the film were actually Stanford and UC Berkeley. It was Lloyd’s most successful film of the 1920s, even though today most remember him for Safety Last!
Harold Lloyd plays a fresh-faced and ambitious, albeit clumsy, student who is going away to college. He tries to emulate his college football hero, but ultimately he winds up looking foolish. He meets a young girl, Peggy, who fancies him, despite the fact that he is pranked left and right, from the commencement ceremony, to the football team, and the Fall “frolic” where his suit is constantly unraveling at the seams. In the end, he is allowed to play for the football team in a last-ditch effort when all other available players have been injured and he unexpectedly wins the game and wins the heart of Peggy.
The Freshman is a delightful comedy film that is amazingly well-preserved by the Criterion Collection. It was a pleasure to see the origins of many now-familiar gags employed in later college satire films, such as the fresh-faced student, the jock, and the mean crusty Dean of the College. This is another fun romp through Harold Lloyd’s world.