Before the advent of the teenager in the 1940s and the teenpic in the 1950s, The Freshman (Taylor and Newmeyer, 1925) represented 1920s college youth culture as an exclusive world of leisure to a mass audience. Starring popular slapstick comedian Harold Lloyd, The Freshman was a hit with audiences for its parody of contemporary conceptions of university life as an orgy of proms and football games, becoming the highest grossing comedy feature of the silent era. This book examines The Freshman from a number of perspectives, with a focus on the social, economic, and political context that led to the rise of campus culture as a distinct subculture and popular mass culture in 1920s America; Lloyd’s use of slapstick to represent an embodied, youthful middle-class masculinity; and the film’s self-reflexive exploration of the conflict between individuality and conformity as an early entry in the youth film genre.
Table of Contents
Introduction: When Both Were Young
1. ‘A Large Football Stadium with a College Attached’: 1920s Collegiate Youth Culture
2. ‘Just a Regular Fellow’: Harold Lloyd and Silent-Era Middle-Class Masculinity
3. ‘The College Hero’: The Freshman’s Individual Conformist
4. ‘Laugh and Live Longer’: The Mass Marketing and Reception of The Freshman
Conclusion: Before the Teenpic
Christina G. Petersen is Christian Nielsen associate professor of film studies at Eckerd College. She has published on identity and embodiment in American cinema, including essays on the origins of the youth film, the independent African American race film industry, international avant-garde cinema, and contemporary film exhibition technology.