Monday, June 6, 2011

The old(ster) college try

I've blogged about a couple of movies in which I point out that Loretta Young either chose or got put into some not very good stuff toward the end of her career. If you want another example of this, you could watch Mother Is a Freshman, which is airing tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM on the Fox Movie Channel.

Young plays Abigail Fortitude Abbott, a widow who's got a daughter Susan (Betty Lynn) in college. Unfortunately, Susan spends like a fish to mix metaphors, to the point that Abigail is out of money from the current installment of the trust fund that was set up for the two women and Susan might have to drop out of college. Abigail's attorney and the executor of the will, Mr. Heaslip (Rudy Vallee), is in love with Abigail and wants her to marry him because that will make everybody's financial situation so much easier. Abigail doesn't love Heaslip, and comes up with an idea. Several generations back, her family set up a scholarship that could go to anybody named Fortitude. Obviously Susan can't use it, but Abigail can! So she'll get into college and use the scholarship to support Susan for one semester until the next installment of the trust fund.

If you've seen one unrealistic college movie, you've seen plot themes that show up over and over in the genre. The boys seem more interested in the co-eds than in their studies, to the point that some of them are actually interested in Susan, who would have to have been in her late 30s according to the plot. Susan, on the other hand, is interested in her English professor, Prof. Michaels (played by Van Johnson). He's not that interested in her, of course. Things go from bad to worse when Abigail enrolls in Prof. Michaels' class, and he takes an interest in Abigail! You'd think this would violate all sorts of norms of propriety, but it's Hollywood. The Production Code frowned on a lot of things, but not this.

You can probably guess where things are going to go. At first it will look like Abigail will end up with the right man, and then romantic complications will ensue, but all of them ought to be sorted out by the end, and everybody will live happily ever after. Frankly, I think the professor and the lawyer ought to end up together; that would be a much more interesting plot twist. But the Production Code wouldn't allow that. Mother Is a Freshman is mildly diverting, but nothing special. But if you want to see it, you'll have to watch it on the Fox Movie Channel, as it's not on DVD.

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