Sunday, July 26, 2009

The old college try

Today being the 87th birthday of director Blake Edwards, I was looking through his filmography and noticed that he directed the dreadful 1960 movie High Time (not available on DVD, probably because it's so lousy). The plot of the movie is that wealthy widower Bing Crosby decides he finally wants go to college, where he meets and ends up befriending the young'uns (played by Fabian and Tuesday Weld), with each side learning something about how to live from the other. It's one of those generation gap movies that were popular in the 60s, when Hollywood's squares (of which Crosby might have been the squarest) tried to put young people into their movies that they thought would make the real twentysomethings of America want to come and see their movies. The actual result is a series of howlers. In the case of High Time, I don't think college was ever quite the way Crosby and company portrayed it.

Interestingly, though, Hollywood has seemingly always gotten college wrong. Sometimes it's for deliberate effect, as in Harold Lloyd's The Freshman, in which Lloyd is excited about college life, only to find out it's not quite what he imagined. It's also one of the many movies dealing with college football, which doesn't get the football very right, either.

A fascinating example of this is the movie So This is College, a very early talkie that isn't very good, but fascinating because it's got one of the earliest screen appearances of Robert Montgomery.

Perhaps the most fun, even if completely off the mark, movie about college and college football might be Too Many Girls, in which Eddie Bracken, Desi Arnaz (playing an Argentine immigrant halfback!) and Richard Carlson all fall head over heels for Lucille Ball and follow her out to a 90% female cow college in New Mexico. It bears no resemblance to college, to football, or to New Mexico, but still, the movie is a blast.

Why does Hollywood get college so wrong, anyway?

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