Spotlight on Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman
Whoa boy, I’m not athletic. In grade school I tried. I played softball, volleyball, basketball and track. I signed up for little league. I had many a pizza party with my teammates. But I was never very good. By high school I figured it out and contented myself to more sedentary activities such as reading and watching classic films. So when I heard about the Athletes in Film Blogathon hosted by Once Upon A Screen and Wide Screen World I knew just which film I wanted to write about – The Freshman starring Harold Lloyd.
In this 1925 film Lloyd plays a hapless college freshman. A bit of a nerd he’s eager to make a good impression when he heads off to school. Inspired by a film hero aptly called The College Hero he creates a whole new persona for himself and begs everyone to call him “Speedy.”
Of course, this doesn’t work out at all and soon he’s the laughing stock of the school. Deciding football will lead the way to college glory he tries out for the team.
Now, here’s where I can relate to poor Speedy. He stinks. He’s got heart but…he stinks. When I played sports boy did I give it my all but just like Speedy I wasn’t any good. What are we hapless wannbe athletes to do?
Well, for me it was to just play anyway and enjoy the time with my friends. By high school I didn’t care anymore. It’s not that easy for Speedy – he’s got four more years of college! So what does he do? He uses perseverance and a big deal of brain power to prove himself on the football field.
And of course, win the heart of his true love.
The Freshman was filmed at the height of Lloyd’s career and was his most successful film of the 1920’s. Its exteriors were shot at USC and the final football game was shot at the Rose Bowl. USC is a beautiful, historic campus and the scene shot there give a true authenticity to the film. And, of course, it’s wildly funny. Throughout the film Speedy gets himself into a number of scrapes including giving a speech while a kitten crawls around the folds of his sweater and enjoying a soiree while his tuxedo falls apart. I’m not surprised The Freshman is Lloyd’s most successful film. With it’s equal parts comedy and heart it’s a true masterwork.