Filmsite Movie Review
The Freshman (1925)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

The Fall Frolic Dance:

A close-up of a formally-printed dance invitation announced the college's annual social event:

Harold (Speedy) Lamb
requests the pleasure of your presence
at his
Fall Frolic
October 25, 1924
at the Hotel Tate

Peggy watched as a number of students guffawed at their invitations - ridiculing Harold for hosting the event, for trying to buy his way into becoming popular:

The host - - how he hoped to look for $38.50.

In a Jewish tailor's shop, Harold was fitted with the latest stylish tuxedo by the College Tailor (Joseph Harrington). When he slumped over and suffered from a dizzy spell, his wife (with a baby in her arms) offered him a sip of brandy to steady him: "It's one of his dizzy spells, Mr. Lamb - - a little brandy always fixes him right up." Harold feared that the suit wouldn't be ready by the start of the dance and asked:

There's no danger of not having my suit ready for the party, is there?

The tailor finished his tape measurements, while Harold assisted with the baby still left in his arms. The infant was placed between Harold's legs when he needed to free his arms. The Fall Frolic was:

The crowning achievement of Speedy the Spender

Peggy was employed as the hat-and-coat check girl at the hotel's front desk, near where a wild party was being held in an adjacent room. Confetti, balloons, and dancing couples were on the dance floor, entertained by a live band. The College remarked about the host's absence:

It's after ten o'clock - I wonder what's keeping Speedy?

Harold (or 'Speedy') was pacing in the lobby of the tailor's shop ("ADAM the Tailor"), awaiting the completion of his suit for the big dance. His underwear was concealed by a 3-part divider he held up around his waist. The tailor had suffered from more dizzy spells, and hadn't completed Harold's tuxedo, and he was upset: "With the whole college waiting, you pick out a day like this for dizzy spells!" The tailor handed him the coat, and warned that it was only baste-stitched together (not sewn), and wouldn't hold up if he over-exerted himself ("I only had time to baste it - so be careful - it's just loosely stitched together"). The tailor decided that he must accompany Harold, just in case anything went wrong and the tuxedo needed emergency repairs ("Easy - Easy - EASY! I'd better go with you in case anything happens!"). With the tailor not far behind, 'Speedy' ran stiff-legged toward the dance, stopped briefly to purchase a small bouquet of flowers, arrived breathless at the hotel's front desk, and presented the flowers to Peggy.

At the dance, The College Cad placed a party hat on Harold's head, and announced his arrival to the guests: "All hail - our host!" As Harold raised his arm to wave at everyone, sincerely believing that he was being admired, his underarm ripped, and when he waved with his handkerchief, he pulled off his front coat pocket. Other parts of the disintegrating tuxedo began to come apart at the seams -- his side coat pocket, his vest, and his coat's back center seam. Standing on guard behind him, the elderly Tailor reached for his needle and thread and began repairs on Harold's back-side, but was sent tumbling forward when Harold was dragged onto the dance floor.

Taking a position in a curtained back room to remain unnoticed, the Tailor suggested to Harold a quick means to signal to each other by using the front desk's bell ("If anything rips, I'll ring this bell"). Another bell-ringer (Charles Farrell) summoning waiter service from one of the dance tables confused Harold - he falsely feared that his clothes were ripping apart, but then realized it was just a false alarm from a duplicate bell. However, he became overconfident and ignored responding to the Tailor's bell, when he actually lost the stitching to his right arm. But then, after realizing that his 'arm' was gone, he cleverly substituted a black trombone cover while he chased after his 'arm' that had become stuck onto the back of his dancing partner's dress like a tail. He recovered his 'arm', raced over to the Tailor for repairs, and backed up against the curtain.

During sleeve repairs, he was being introduced to one of the female students. He delivered his trademark jig, and extended his right arm through the curtain into the back room so he could simultaneously have his arm stitched back on while not appearing unfriendly. His right arm and the tailor's arm were interchanged, leading to further complications. 'Speedy' was asked by the College Cad: "Speedy, old pal, can you let me have ten dollars?" The tailor intervened by reaching into Harold's pocket, producing a $10 bill, and placing it inside the bully’s pocket. As Harold was being thanked by the bully for his generosity (the bully was actually shaking hands with the Tailor's arm), Harold's unsleeved arm pickpocketed back his own $10 dollars.

While he was having his unraveled arm (hidden behind the curtain) stitched back on, Harold spoke to one of the ingenues, and nervously began twisting and twirling one of the loose threads on his trouser's seam (seen in close-up). Soon, his whole bare left leg was exposed - he suggested sitting down at a table in front of the curtain for a polite conversation. In fact, Harold was lying face down on his seat with his legs spread behind him and extended through the curtain, to facilitate more hasty repairs.

The concealed Tailor suffered another fainting spell, poked Harold with his sharp needle, and fell with his full weight onto Harold's legs. Harold slowly sank to the floor and disappeared behind the curtain. The Tailor asked for a libation: "I'd be all right - - if I could only get a little drink." On the dance floor, Harold was finally able to succeed in snitching a flask from a male dancer's back pocket, and passed the flask to the Tailor, who soon become incapacitated and intoxicated.

While dancing, Harold watched from afar as Peggy (at the hotel's front desk) was removing petals from one of the flowers in her bouquet - 'he loves me, he loves me not..." - and smiled. He happily twirled his dance partner around, as Peggy continued to hug and smell the bouquet. He approached her with a loving look, and suddenly (and confidently) kissed her. They were both overcome and overwhelmed with expressions of love and adoration. However, his two rear suspender button-hooks disengaged from his pants, as he was again dragged onto the dance floor. He had to use his hands behind his back to hold up his trousers, but when he applied too much force, all of the button-hooks snapped and he was left with the suspenders in his hand.

The suspenders fell to the floor and became tangled in the feet of one of the dancers (Rosalind Byrne). When she looked down, she thought - embarrassingly - that she had lost her own garters. Harold attempted to attach and tuck part of a tablecloth to the back of his pants with a fork, to cover himself, but he mistakenly dragged the entire tablecloth (with place settings, plates, glasses, etc.) onto the floor - the trailing cloth looked like his train. When a waiter (Gus Leonard) came over to clean up the mess, he gathered up the tablecloth, and in the process de-pantsed Harold! Everyone screamed with laughter - Harold stood in their midst, humiliated and disgraced, and ran off to hide in a booth. He was able to snag a pair of pants from a hotel porter who happened to walk by.

Confronting the College Cad - Harold's Realization of the Truth:

As Harold ran by the front desk, he saw the College Cad advancing on Peggy, grabbing her, and attempting to steal a kiss. Shocked and incensed and fearlessly defending her honor, Harold tore off his jacket, ran over and solidly punched the bully with a right jab in the jaw. In retaliation for the slug, the resentful Cad sought revenge by revealing what everyone actually thought of Harold:

Just for that, you little fool, I'm going to tell you what this bunch really thinks of you!

Peggy feared what Harold would be subjected to and tried to silence the Cad, but he continued to call Harold an unlikable fool who had been denounced by the entire student body:

You think you're a regular fellow - why, you're nothing but the college boob!...Ever since you came to college, we've just been kidding you - look - -

The naive Harold was completely disheartened, agonized and personally destroyed by the cruel news. He looked over to the dance floor, where one of the Cad's friends was standing on a table, and mockingly impersonating Harold in front of everyone:

I'm just a regular fellow - step right up and call me Speedy!

Harold was blind-sided by the realization that he was being regarded as the laughingstock on campus, but he tried to hide his hurt feelings, and feigned indifference:

It doesn't bother me a bit - really; a fellow has to expect these things, you know.

As he smiled uneasily at Peggy, she held out her arms, and he collapsed into her lap. In Harold's boarding house room, a strong gust of wind blew his clipped "Tattler" article from the wall (from its pre-eminent position), and it fluttered down into a trash basket. The dance revelers ignored their devastated host who was weeping, as they sang: "For he's a jolly good fellow."

She offered him a candid scolding with harsh but sound advice (while the mortified Harold hid his face in shame behind a curtain) - she urged that he should just be himself and stop pretending and aspiring to be the college hero:

Harold, you haven't been true to yourself - you've been pretending to be what you thought they wanted you to be. Stop pretending, Harold - be yourself! Get out and make them like you for what you really are and what you can do!

However, Harold became even more boldly determined to prove himself to the entire school and restore his reputation, and acquire acceptance and self-respect. He resolved with fortitude that he would heroically play on the team in the upcoming football game:

There's just one chance left - - if I ever get in that big game against Union State, I'll show them!

Fearing that Harold would fail in his dream of playing on the team, she started to discourage him, but then held her tongue and looked downward - the scene ended very dramatically with the iris closing around her mouth - an exquisite moment in the silent film.

The Climactic Football Game:

The day of days!
When every heart in Tate stood still - and all the world watched football history in the making.

Cheerleading pep boys directed cheers in front of the stadium audience. Various views surveyed the enormous bleachers and crowds who attended the game. In the stands, the College Cad told his girlfriend: "Look at Speedy on the bench - - he still thinks he has a chance to get in the game!" Looking neglected and perturbed, Harold sat at the end of the team bench next to water pails. Peggy was seated in the bleachers with her mother, and pointed out the current scoreboard: Tate: 0, Union State: 3. In the 4th Quarter, there were 14 minutes, and then 13 minutes left to play in the game. Peggy was worried about the outcome, since the tough Union State team was overpowering Tate - and many of its players were injured and had to leave the game:

I'm afraid Union State is too heavy for our boys - they've knocked out almost the entire Tate team.

Worried that he was running out of substitute players, the Coach called over his assistant coach and ordered: "Quick - see if any of the boys who were hurt can get back in the game - I have only one substitute left!" On the bench, Harold spoke to the only other team member remaining - still believing he was on the squad (and not just the water-boy), and hoping for more injuries that would allow them to play: "There's only two of us left, Dave, old boy! We'll get into this game yet!"

A major pile-up on the field after the next play took out another Tate player on a stretcher. It was suggested to Miller, who had ripped his jersey, that he swap his uniform with Harold: "Wait -- I'll get Speedy to change sweaters with you." When Harold was pointed at, he misinterpreted and exclaimed: "Hard luck, Dave, old fellow! They're sending me in ahead of you!" Harold joyfully ran onto the field (his jersey bore the number "0"), where he was instructed to "take off your sweater and give it to Miller!", while Dave was sent in to take the injured player's position.

On the next play, the team captain was partly injured, but refused to be removed: "There's only ten minutes to go - I won't quit now, I tell you - I won't." After the next play, Harold anticipated being substituted in when the stretcher boys raced onto the field, and he eagerly rose from the bench and raced to the sidelines. But the Coach called him back and refused to allow Harold to play. The Coach then revealed devastating news - he was also in on the deception:

Why, we've just been kidding you - you're only the water boy!

Harold sunk down to the bench, but then he became indominable. He stood up for himself, demanded to be taken seriously, and angrily begged and pleaded with the Coach to let him play:

You listen, now! I wasn't kidding! I've been working - and fighting - just for this chance - and you've got to give it to me!

At that moment, the referee called for the game to resume (after a substitution), or the game would be forfeited:

You've had enough time out - send in your substitute! You have one minute to send in a substitute - or else forfeit the game!

After almost tearing his hair out and without any other options, the hounded Coach reluctantly sent Harold into the game.

Harold's Eight Plays on the Football Field:

  1. Now on the field without his number jersey (that he had given to Miller), Harold (wearing a visually-distinctive white shirt) called out to the players: "Come on, you old women! Are you afraid of mussing your hair? Don't you know how to fight?" When the ball was snapped to the quarterback, Harold found himself in the middle of a large pile-up. He was left lying unconscious on the ground, and woke up on a stretcher carrying him off the field. He sat up, revived, refused to give up, and ran back to his team.
  2. After exhorting them before the next play, he was again stomped on, and completely dazed as he wove his way back to the line-up for the next play.
  3. On his third disastrous play of the game, he performed a hand-stand in the middle of another pile-up, and was beginning to see double-images - the result of successive concussions.
  4. When the next play was executed, he was tossed down onto the field, and caught the ball when it was thrown into his arms as he sat on the turf. He was located at the bottom of the heap of players who tackled him, and was reluctant to release the ball from his arms for the start of the next play. His team-mates congratulated him for getting the first down: "Atta boy, Speedy - a twenty yard gain!" He became so disoriented that he lined up on the opposing side's front line before being dragged back to his own side.
  5. When the ball was snapped, Harold again ran downfield and anticipated that the ball would again be tossed into his arms. He mistakenly caught a spectator's thrown hat, and believing that it was the football, he ran with it down to the end-zone. On the sidelines, the exasperated Coach stomped his foot - it became caught in one of the water pails next to the team bench. Harold thought he had scored a touchdown, but looked down the field at the other players and at the hat in his arms and realized his error.
  6. During the next play after the ball was snapped, Harold grabbed the football from the quarterback and ran a few yards before being tackled, and then refused to release the ball, even though the referee kept blowing his whistle to end the play. The referee wrestled the ball from Harold's arms and reprimanded him: "When you hear this whistle, put that ball down!"
  7. Before the next play (with the other team in possession of the ball and with only two minutes left in the game), Harold asked another player: "They may kick - I better play back - hey?" In the backfield as he steadied himself to catch the kicked ball, Harold became confused by a stadium vendor's released string of balloons into the air (looking like footballs), and then the kicked football struck him on the head. When he saw the other players charging down the field to tackle him, he unlaced the pigskin's strings, set the ball down, and pulled it by its string (like a yo-yo) at the last moment to deceive the group of tacklers. He ran down the field, concealed the ball behind his back and evaded a tackler who grabbed onto his shoe. [Note: His knee struck the ground and the play should have been called dead.] He continued running and was just about to cross the goal-line when he heard a factory steam-whistle. He promptly dropped the ball (literally obedient to the referee's instructions) and the other team took possession of the ball. His team-mates were completely upset and infuriated with him for potentially losing the game for them: "One minute left to play - - and you've thrown away our last chance."
  8. In the final moments of play, Harold saw that he was being ridiculed in the stands by the College Cad, and he resolved that he would never be defeated. He roused his teammates to surge on to victory. In the final play of the game, the Tate players lined up near the goal-line against the opposing team. After the ball was snapped, Harold blocked the team's punt. [Note: Union State had just acquired possession, and wouldn't be kicking the ball on first down!] During a mad scramble, the ball was picked up by a Union State player and the ball carrier raced to the other end of the field to score a touchdown. Harold caught up with him, tackled him and dislodged the ball, scooped it up, and heroically ran all the way back for the winning touchdown, as the referee fired a gun to signal the end of the game. The Coach asked his assistant: "I can't look! Is it over the line?" Harold was at the bottom of the jumbled pile holding the football just across the goal-line, with the line-marking powder from the end zone across his face.

Tate won the game, 6-3 due to Harold's winning touchdown. The stands cleared and the Tate spectators crowded around to admire their new campus hero -- 'Speedy'. He was carried on the shoulders of his team members and lauded as their champion, as they carried him into the Athletic Building. In the crowd, Peggy blew him a kiss, and then passed him a love note scrawled onto a scrap of paper torn from her program. He grabbed it, and then inside the locker room, Harold was alerted to look out an open window. He realized that he was truly being appreciated by many of the students and his own Coach, who performed his trademark jig and handshake.

After finally finding some privacy in the shower area, Harold opened up Peggy's note:

I knew you could do it - I'm so proud - and I love you.

Deliriously in love after proving himself, he leaned back and accidentally activated the shower above him, but was obliviously undeterred by the water raining down on him. The sequence faded to black.

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