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Harold Lloyd

 

 

THE FRESHMAN

Pathé, 1924.  Directed by Fred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor.  Camera:  Walter Lundin, Henry Kohler.  With Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Brooks Benedict, James Anderson, Hazel Keener, Joseph Harrington, Pat Harmon, Charles Stevenson, Oscar Smith, Grady Sutton, Charles Farrell, Gus Leonard.

       
           

Harold Lamb is a dreamer, with college glory on his mind.  He has saved up enough money to go to Tate College, and his ultimate hope is to become the most popular man on campus.  He is certain that he has found the formula:  emulation of the idol in the film "The College Hero."  The BMOC in the movie has a catch phrase—"I'm just a regular fellow—step right up and call me Speedy!"—accompanied by a scissor-like jig.  Harold's father tells his wife, "If Harold does the jig at college they'll break his heart of his neck."  As Harold is on his train trip to college, he meets Peggy ("the kind of girl your mother must have been")—she is destined to be the girl of his dreams.

When Harold reaches the Tate campus ("a large football stadium with a college attached"), some upperclassmen decide to have some fun with the freshmen.  Harold is invited to take a car to the auditorium:  the dean's car.  He finds himself back stage, attempting to save a kitty who has gotten stuck atop the curtain:  the upperclassmen throw open the curtain, exposing Harold, on top of a plant stand, retrieving the kitten.  Harold places the kitty in his sweater and promptly falls to the floor, causing the audience to roar with laughter.  Harold, somehow, musters up the courage (after hearing that he must or risk severe unpopularity) to address the student body, blurting out his rehearsed catch phrase to a delighted crowd.  The student body applauds Harold enthusiastically, and after escaping the stage, Harold is greeted by some upperclassmen, including most popular man Chet Trask.

To keep the high spirits moving, Harold invites these VIPs to the ice cream parlor.  The college cad invites the entire student body to join them for ice cream, courtesy of "Speedy":  this overspending dictates a change in living plans.  He rents a small room in a boarding house:  a house owned by the mother of Peggy, the girl he met on the train.

Meanwhile, The Tate Tattler reports on Harold's "dizzy dash to popularity," and both Peggy and Harold cut out his picture.  Harold pins his picture to the wall, directly underneath the photo of Chet Trask, whose status as most popular man Harold aspires to.  Peggy tears away the caption under Harold's picture, aware that the entire student body is having a good laugh at Harold's expense, and silently suffering for him.

Harold, undaunted, offers his services to the Tate football team, confident that membership and success on the squad will sew up his popularity.  The team uses him for a tackle dummy:  the coach, however, admires Harold's spirit, knowing he has no talent whatsoever for football, yet keeps him on as water boy.  Harold, though, thinks he has made the team, through his aches and pains, and excitedly tells Peggy all about it.

To keep the dash to popularity going, Harold makes plans to host this year's Fall Frolic, a black-tie social to be held at the Hotel Tate.  He worries that his suit will not be ready on time, and on the evening of the Frolic, it is only weakly basted.  The tailor, who has been suffering from dizzy spells (curable by a swig of whatever whiskey is available), runs out of time to finish the suit, so decides to accompany Harold to the dance, ready to mend broken bastes on the spot.

On the dance floor, Speedy is in demand:  with all the girls pawing over him, his suit eventually disintegrates before the eyes of the Frolickers, and Harold must hide in a phone booth.  He does nab another suit, and makes his way back to the dance floor, when he eyes the college cad making unwanted advances toward Peggy, who is the coat check girl at the hotel.  When Harold punches the cad, the ruffian angrily levels with Speedy:  "Ever since you came to college, we've been kidding you.  Look—".  Harold watches in horror as students are alternately mocking his jig and his "regular fellow" phrase in his temporary absence.  At first he shrugs it off, but the pressure builds in him, and Harold is reduced to tears on Peggy's lap.  She encourages him to "stop pretending, Harold—be yourself!"  Harold realizes, after all is said and done, that if he could only get into the big game against Union State, he'd show them.

On the day of the game, Speedy is an enthusiastic bench warmer.  Only after every substitute and reserve is injured, does Harold enter the game—this after finding out that he was only on the team as water boy, but dismissing this fact as rubbish, and verbally chiding the coach until he was put in the game.  The next ten minutes are mayhem:  Amazingly, after each obstacle he faces is defeated, Harold wins the game at the final whistle.  At the same time, he has won self-respect, the admiration of the college community, and the girl, who valued the real Harold all along.

The Harold Lloyd Encyclopedia,
by Annette D'Agostino Lloyd
McFarland & Company, Inc.,
 
Jefferson, NC and London, 2004