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Film / The Freshman (1925)

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The Freshman is a 1925 silent comedy film directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor. It is one of the best-remembered films of its star, Harold Lloyd.

Lloyd is Harold Lamb, a naive young man who leaves for Tate College with a determination to be popular. On the train to college he meets, and falls for, pretty Peggy (Jobyna Ralston). Harold works hard to become popular at Tate, asking people to call him "Speedy", dancing a little jig when introducing himself to strangers, giving a rousing speech to the student body, buying everyone on campus ice cream, and trying out for the school's football team. Unfortunately, all of these efforts backfire spectacularly, and he becomes—unbeknownst to him—the laughingstock of the campus. Only Peggy (who turns out to be his landlady's daughter) genuinely likes him.

Harold makes the football team—as a water boy and tackling dummy, while believing he is actually on the squad. At the Fall Frolic dance Harold is cruelly stripped of his illusions, learning that he is looked upon as a fool and the butt of jokes. After a heart-to-heart with Peggy, Harold is determined to prove everyone wrong by being a hero at Tate's big football game.

This film might well be the Ur-Example for Big Game, Big Man on Campus, Dean Bitterman, and Put Me In, Coach!. Inducted into the National Film Registry with the class of 1990.

Not to be confused with the 1990 movie starring Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick, nor with Pixelberry's Visual Novel The Freshman, from the app Choices: Stories we Play.


  • Be Yourself: Peggy's advice to Harold. It's hard to say whether he takes it.
  • Big Game: The climax, in which Tate College is facing off against their big rivals in the season-ending football game.
  • Big Man on Campus: Harold desperately wants to be this, and at the end he succeeds.
    • Chet Trask is one and Harold admires him.
  • Butt-Monkey: Harold is this throughout a good portion of the film. He gets a lit match thrown on his sweater, chased by a dog and used as a living dummy for football practice, among other indignities.
  • Catchphrase: Harold's "Step right up and call me Speedy!", accompanied by a little jig dance.
  • Clothing Damage: Harold's tuxedo for the "Fall Frolic" dance is loosely held together with basting thread, leading to the expected results.
  • Cute Kitten: Harold rescues one of these from a high ledge and then tries to hide it under his sweater while addressing the student body, causing adorable hilarity to ensue.
  • Dean Bitterman: Takes an irrational dislike to poor Harold.
  • Down to the Last Play: The game ends with Harold's mad dash to the end zone, scoring a touchdown on the last play.
  • Flat Character: Except for Harold Lloyd's character and Peggy, nearly all the characters are represented as college stereotypes.
  • Fun with Subtitles: Harold's attempts at college cheers in the beginning are shown as wild, energetic and very non-standard text cards. It's so incomprehensible to Harold's dad (apart from "chop suey") that he briefly believes he's contacted China on his amateur radio set.
  • Impairment Shot: Harold is seeing double after taking a hit in the climactic football game.
  • Loves Me Not: Harold spies Peggy doing this with a bouquet he gave her, and they're both pleased to see it comes out "loves me".
  • Meet Cute: Harold and Peggy meeting over a crossword puzzle on the train.
  • Not What It Looks Like: When Harold and Peggy try to figure out a "word for the one you love." on a crossword puzzle they begin listing them to one another. An innocent old woman hears them and assumes they're in love. This causes them to startle and for Harold to run away.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: The coach finally has to put in Harold because he doesn't have any other men.
  • Running Gag: Harold greeting people by dancing a ridiculous little jig. In one scene, after he's beaten within an inch of his life at football practice, he can barely manage it. The gag pays off brilliantly at the end when Harold becomes a football hero and everyone else starts dancing his little jig, with the no-nonsense football coach showing them how.
  • Squirrels in My Pants: Or rather A Kitten in My Sweater, as Harold is attempting to give a speech.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: The football coach is said to be so tough that he shaves with a blow-torch!
  • Unnecessary Roughness: Harold's coach demonstrates how to tackle someone by punching them in the face.