Bryan Foy

College (1927, James W. Horne)

The best sequence in College is also the longest. Protagonist Buster Keaton, after failing at baseball (he’s a bookworm who needs to get athletic to impress a girl), goes out for track and field. Keaton observes other men succeed at the various events, tries them himself, fails miserably (and comically), keeps trying, presumably assuming he’ll eventually get something right.

And the viewer assumes it too. That sequence, which does eventually have a fantastic payoff, plays with the viewer’s expectations. Its length and thoroughness serves to fully vest the viewer in the film (the sequence is around the halfway point). Keaton’s success is more important to the viewer than it is to Keaton’s protagonist.

College is a little light on plot–after setting up Keaton as unable to afford college without working his way through and showcasing his misadventures at odd jobs, the film drops the subject. Ditto the girl–played by Anne Cornwall–and her problems with her jerk jock boyfriend, Harold Goodwin. The latter comes back into the film for the finale, but the college financing stuff doesn’t.

And Keaton doesn’t really have a story arc. He tries sports to get the girl. Either it’s going to work out or it isn’t. There’s just enough story to get the viewer interested and then Keaton’s attempts (and failures) are funny enough to keep it going. College has about enough story for a short, it just has long form comedic sequences.

The film always moves, always looks great. The finish rocks.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by James W. Horne; written by Carl Harbaugh and Bryan Foy; director of photography, Bert Haines and Devereaux Jennings; edited by Sherman Kell; produced by Joseph M. Schenck; released by United Artists.

Starring Buster Keaton (Ronald), Anne Cornwall (Mary Haynes), Harold Goodwin (Jeff), Flora Bramley (Mary’s friend), Snitz Edwards (Dean Edwards) and Florence Turner (Ronald’s mother).


Sympathy (1929, Bryan Foy)

Sympathy is a Vitaphone one-reeler about a married man (Hobart Cavanaugh) stepping out on his wife. It’s not his fault, of course, he was just responding to peer pressure.

Harry Shannon plays the peer in question and he’s awful. He drags Sympathy down for the first half. Once he’s absent and the wife, played by Regina Wallace, comes in, the short greatly improves.

Both Cavanaugh and Wallace are good–they only have a couple moments together, unfortunately. Sympathy doesn’t give its cast much to do, which might be a good thing since director Bryan Foy can’t shoot a picture.

Synchronized sound is in its infancy here, not filmmaking. Foy can’t figure out how to place actors on a set, can’t imply scale. If Sympathy weren’t just talking and some tepid slapstick, he’d do it a far greater disservice.

As is, it’s indistinct except as an example of early talkies.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Bryan Foy; written by Murray Roth and Edmund Joseph; director of photography, Edwin B. DuPar; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Hobart Cavanaugh (William Maxwell), Regina Wallace (Laura Maxwell), Harry Shannon (Larry), Wynne Gibson (Trixie) and Loretta Shea (Flo).


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