Celebrating The Freshman at 90

If you’re observing Yom Kippur, may you have an easy and meaningful fast!

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This handsome, talented gentleman is Harold Lloyd (20 April 1893–8 March 1971), the third great comedian of the silent era. Besides being a brilliant actor and comedian, he also seemed like a really nice, genuine person, and managed his money very well. On a personal level, other reasons I’m such a big fan are because he was a fellow lefty and burn survivor. I’ve also always loved the name Harold.

Harold wasn’t, to anyone’s knowledge, born left-handed, but after a near-fatal accident in August 1919, his right thumb and forefinger had to be amputated, and he had to learn another handedness. It really makes me happy when I see him doing something left-handed in his films, knowing what social and cultural attitudes towards left-handedness were at that time.

Even if you’ve never seen one of Harold’s films or don’t know his name, you’ve probably seen this most iconic image of him:

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I actually gasped out loud many times when I first watched Safety Last! (1923), even knowing he wasn’t going to fall to his death while climbing that building over city traffic. Though he did use a double for some long shots, Harold, like Buster Keaton, did all his stunts himself. It’s even more amazing to think about how he did that with only three fingers on his right hand. He wore a prosthetic glove onscreen, but that doesn’t change the real state of his hand.

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The Freshman, released 20 September 1925, was Harold’s most successful film of the silent era, and created a trend for college-themed films. College life was already very fashionable, something to aspire to, but this film just made it even hotter.

Harold Lamb is on his way to Tate University when he meets Peggy (Jobyna Ralston, Harold’s leading lady from 1923–28) on the train. Naturally, they fall in instalove.

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Harold feels the best way into popularity will be to copy The College Hero, a movie idol of his. This copycatting includes doing a funny jig when meeting someone, and taking the nickname Speedy. Since Harold is such a nice, innocent guy, he doesn’t realize people are making fun of him and his mannerisms. He’s even deceived into believing he’s popular, when in reality everyone is laughing at him behind his trusting back. Peggy, however, is a good egg, and proves to be Harold’s only real friend.

The freshman

Harold fails when he tries out for the football team, and is used as the practice tackle dummy because he damaged the real one. In spite of being tackled over and over, Harold’s desire to play football is undeterred. The coach is impressed by his enthusiasm, but still doesn’t want him on the team. Another cruel trick is played on Harold when Chet Trask, the team’s captain and hero, suggests the coach use him as a water boy while letting him think he’s a real part of the team.

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Harold is compelled into hosting the Fall Frolic dance, but there’s a slight problem—his tailor hasn’t finished his suit yet. Ever the optimist, Harold puts on a suit barely held together with basting stitches. All through the party, the tailor tries his best to keep the suit together, but his clothes eventually give way. Harold then sees the College Cad not behaving so appropriately with Peggy, and knocks him down.

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The Cad is furious, and finally informs Harold just what everyone thinks of him. Peggy meanwhile tells Harold to just be himself, and stop pretending to be someone he’s not. Still undeterred, Harold determines to make himself a hero through the next big football game.

The opposing team is so brutal, many of Tate’s players are taken out due to injuries and the substitutes run out. With little choice, the coach finally lets Harold play, and the underdog emerges as a hero.

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6 thoughts on “Celebrating The Freshman at 90

  1. Nice 🙂

    I have downloaded a couple of Harold’s films, though I havent watched them yet.
    I like silent films, especially comedies, they are so different from the modern once, because they coulnd’t count on witty lines too much. College films are especially funny, and even a bit weird, in my opinion 🙂

    Like

  2. I’ve seen this film a number of times, but don’t remember many specifics. Though when you mentioned it I immediately could mentally recall that little jig dance he’d do. It’s a funny film that I’ll have to watch again when it comes on TV.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

    Like

  3. Pingback: Warm Afca – Ian Hawgood | mostly music

  4. Pingback: Buster Goes to College « Welcome to My Magick Theatre

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