College (1927) Director: James W. Thorne, Buster Keaton
Not unlike Harold Lloyd’s comedy The Freshman (1925), released just two years prior, Buster Keaton’s comparable comedy, simply entitled College, is a hilarious satire of higher education and especially of college sports. Amazingly, neither Buster Keaton nor Harold Lloyd attended college, but both of their parallel comedies were filmed on the USC campus. James Thorne was given co-directing credit, however Buster Keaton later claimed he was totally worthless and the majority of the work was done by Buster Keaton.
College takes place in Southern California. Buster Keaton (a.k.a. “Ronald”) mulls over pursuing a college degree or joining the workforce after being held in High School for several years. When he graduates High School he delivers a speech to the student body, extolling the virtues of book-learning and criticizing unhealthy obsessiveness with athletics. He decides to follow his love interest, Mary (played by Anne Cornwall), as she attends a fictional college called “Clayton.” She professes love for athletes so Ronald tries out for several teams, ultimately failing miserably, and he also takes on a few part-time jobs (including an unfortunate and dated scene in which he dons blackface as a waiter). Ronald soon joins the rowing club and he slowly starts to impress Mary. In the end, he saves her from a jock love interest who gets kicked out of college. College is a delightful film but certainly not my favorite Buster Keaton movie.
College was actually released deliberately for box office success after Buster Keaton’s amazing but financially unsuccessful magnum opus, The General (1926). Of course, in the Buster Keaton catalogue I prefer The General, but College is nevertheless an amusing picture.