I vividly remember 3 years ago when we travelled 1197 miles and dropped off our only son to Grinnell College and officially became empty nesters. He was then a bright eyed freshman eager to learn the rigors of college life much like Harold Lamb aka Speedy (Harold Lloyd) was when he entered Tate University with the blessings of his parents. As any college parent would relate, their angst is how their child would adapt and survive in their first year of college.
The Freshman (1925) directed by Sam Taylor and Fred Newmeyer (who also both collaborated with Lloyd in Safety Last! in 1923) was Harold Lloyd’s biggest box-office hit. This silent comedy gem, featuring the great actor at his eager best as a new college student. In 1990, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”, going in the second year of voting and being one of the first 50 films to receive such an honor.
Harold Lamb’s dream was to be popular on campus much like his idol “Speedy” played by actor Lester Laurel in the movie “The College Hero”. His plan was to emulate Speedy and he did not waste any time by addressing the student body after arriving on campus and being coaxed by the College Cad (Brooks Benedict) to give a speech. In classic Lloyd comedic slapstick fashion, he ended his address by saying “I am just a regular fellow and I want you to step right up and call me ‘Speedy’! “
His road to being popular and accepted won’t be smooth sailing as unbeknownst to him he was made the butt of an ongoing joke in the whole campus. His only real friend is Peggy (Jobyna Ralston), who turns out to be his landlady’s daughter, described in one of the film’s title cards as “what your mother was like when she was young”.
To prove his mettle, he has to try out for the Football team, host the annual Fall Frolic and try to earn playing time from his unimpressed coach especially in the most important game of their football season against Union State.
Zero to Hero or Hero to Zero…. Coincidentally, The Criterion Collection will release its 3rd Harold Lloyd film on blu-ray Speedy (1928) on December 8, 2015.