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Antti Alanen: Film Diary:

College

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College (1927) with Buster Keaton and Ann Cornwall. College (1927). Buster Keaton between girlfriend (Ann Cornwall) and mother (Florence Turner, 20 years earlier famous as the Vitagraph Girl, one of the very first film stars). Hyppyä, soutua ja rakkautta / Rodd, hopp och kärlek.     US © 1927 Joseph M. Schenck Productions (presents). Distr: A United Artists Production. P: Harry Brand, Joseph M. Schenck. D: James W. Horne. SC: Carl Harbaugh, Bryan Foy. Cin: Dev Jennings, Bert Haines. Technical director: Fred Gabourie. Lighting effects: Jack Lewis. ED: Sherman Kell.     C: Buster Keaton (Ronald), Ann Cornwall (Mary Haines), Flora Bramley (Mary's friend), Harold Goodwin (Jeff Brown, the rival), Buddy Mason, Grant Withers (Jeff's friends), Snitz Edwards (dean Edwards), Carl Harbaugh (crew coach), Sam Crawford (baseball coach), Florence Turner (Ronald's mother), the baseball team of the University of Southern California.     Premiere: 10 September 1927.     Helsinki premiere: Kino-Palatsi 30.4.1928 – S – 1803 m /24 fps/ 66 min     Finnish telepremiere 6 May 1973 Yleisradio TV1.     Lobster Films restoration in 2K with a John Muri / Mont Alto Orchestra score (1992) (tbc).     Screened at Kino Regina, Helsinki (Buster Keaton), 10 Feb 2019 Produced between Buster Keaton's epic masterpieces The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr., College was modest in scale. It was the ninth of his ten independently produced feature films. College would have provided ideal material for Harold Lloyd, and it does have affinities with The Freshman (1925). Sometimes College is rated as conventional but I beg to differ. I included this film in my MMM Film Guides of the 1000 and 1100 best films of all times (in 1995 and 2005), and I see no reason to revise my opinion. For 90% of its duration College is a surprisingly dark film, almost a Book of Job of humiliations and disappointments. It borders on the masochistic in its account of Buster's seemingly endless endurance tests. He is a brilliant student, a teacher's pet, but the trouble is that everybody adores physical prowess only. Also, Buster comes from a poor home and he has to work through college, although he is no good at the jobs available (as a bartender and as a blackfaced waiter). The film starts as Buster and his mother (Florence Turner, the Vitagraph Girl, one of the first film stars) emerge from a rainstorm, and enter the festive graduation ceremony soaking wet. Buster has trouble in closing his umbrella, and sitting next to a heater his clothes start to shrink so much that his buttons are opened. In this embarrassing state he has to give his graduation speech. The theme is about "brains vs. brawn", and he manages to offend everybody. When Buster is finished, the hall is empty, and only his mother remains. This is a nightmare opening, and the film goes on in the same mood. I would almost call it monotonous, but the approach is so audacious and so contrary to the official gospel of success that I keep being amazed. In every humiliation Buster maintains his dignity. His mother never loses faith, and although his beloved Mary is distanced from Buster's teacher's pet attitudes and his ineptitude in sports and jobs, she never loses her fundamental attraction. Despite its allegedly conventional script College belongs to the films where Keaton is at his most existential and where we can understand why Samuel Beckett wanted to work with him. Keaton is an outsider in the game of life. When Buster Keaton was rediscovered in Finland in the early 1970s Peter von Bagh noted that he instinctively called him K. like a protagonist of Franz Kafka. Also in College there is a particularly strong sense of the absurdity of existence. College is full of brilliant physical gags. Keaton, the cinema's most acrobatic comedian, plays the world's most miserable sportsman. In the laugh-out-loud finale he learns that he was meant to be drugged so as not to spoil the grand rowing contest. To everyone's surprise he rises to the occasion and the team wins in a comedy climax. Then he hears that Mary has been kidnapped by his rival Jeff and launches a race-to-the rescue decathlon showing his virtuosity in running, hurdles, triple jump, high jump, discus throw, shot put, baseball, javelin, etc. The victory course is short after a long account of agony, and the film is capped by a quick montage about the rest of Buster and Mary's lives: a large family, old age, and gravestones. College is a most unusual comedy. I find it a nightmare comedy, a comedy of anxiety. A beautiful restoration in which the visual quality is often very good. A fine score by John Muri / Mont Alto Orchestra. BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OUR PROGRAM NOTE BASED ON DAVID ROBINSON: BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: OUR PROGRAM NOTE BASED ON DAVID ROBINSON: College oli Keatonin toiseksi viimeinen elokuva itsenäiselle tuotantoyhtiölleen, mutta tiukentuvan valvonnan oireet alkoivat tulla jo esiin. Lou Anger, mies, joka oli esitellyt Keatonin Fatty Arbucklelle vuonna 1917, oli ollut siitä lähtien, kymmenen vuoden ajan, hänen tuotantopäällikkönsä, mutta nyt Joseph Schenck antoi Angerin tehtäväksi United Artistsin teatteriverkoston kehittämisen, ja Keaton sai uudeksi tuotantopäällikökseen entisen PR-miehensä Harry Brandin. Kun Brand ilmeisesti Schenckin kehotuksesta omaksui toimessaan tiukan linjan, Keaton joutui ensi kertaa kokemaan mitä tuottajan sekaantuminen elokuvantekoon merkitsee. Uutena ohjaajakumppanina Keatonilla oli James W. Horne, joka työskenteli myöhemmin tiiviisti Laurelin ja Hardyn kanssa. Käsikirjoittajina olivat Carl Harbaugh ja Bryan Foy, ja komediatyylissä tapahtunutta selvää muutosta heijasti myös uudenlainen kuvallinen ote, joskin Collegen molemmat kuvaajat olivat työskennelleet Keatonin kanssa aikaisemminkin. Arkisen nykyaikaismiljöön myötä elokuva sai tavanomaisemman kuvallisen tyylin kuin oikeastaan mikään muu Keatonin pitkä elokuva. College poikkeaa suuresti Keatonin edellisestä elokuvasta Kenraali. Se on rakenteeltaan varsin sovinnainen, ja juonensa puolesta se olisi yhtä hyvin voinut olla vaikkapa Harold Lloydin elokuva. Keaton esittää Ronaldia, kirjatoukkaa ja mammanpoikaa. Hänen mielitiettynsä Mary, koulun suosituin tyttö, on ihastunut huippu-urheilija Jeff Browniin. Kun Mary ja Jeff lähtevät collegeen, köyhä Ronald päättää kaapia kaikin keinoin tarvittavat rahat kokoon päästäkseen myös sinne. Opaskirjojen ja runsaiden varusteiden avulla hän yrittää treenata myös itsestään huippu-urheilijan, mutta hänen esiintymisensä urheilukentällä ja baseballkentällä ovat katastrofaalisia. Neuvokkuutensa turvin Ronald ohjaa kuitenkin soutujoukkueensa voittoon, ja kun hän kuulee, että Mary on pulassa Jeffin käsissä, nähdään Ronaldin syöksyessä apuun yksi Keatonin uran hienoimmista kiitoratakliimakseista. Maryn avunhuuto kirvoittaa Ronaldin mestaruuteen kaikissa  niissä urheilulajeissa, joissa hänen on nähty epäonnistuvan. Hän ylittää pensasaidat aitajuoksijan tyyliin, tekee mahtavan loikan joen yli, lentää korkeushyppääjän tavoin Maryn huoneeseen pyykkikepin turvin (tämä oli ainoa kerta kun Keaton käytti stuntmiestä: oikea hyppääjä on olympiavoittaja Lee Barnes) ja karkottaa Jeffin sinkoamalla hänen päälleen erilaisia esineitä yhtä taitavasti kuin kiekonheittäjä sekä käyttämällä lamppua keihäänä. Loppuvinjetti on makaaberi: onnellinen pari nähdään häissä, keski-ikäisinä, vanhuksina ja lopuksi niminä hautakivissä. Vaikka College ei ole niin antoisa kokonaisidealtaan kuin Ruorimies tai Kenraali, sen gag-tarjonta on yhtä runsasta kuin Keatonin lyhytelokuvien. Hauskoja ideoita syntyy paitsi Ronaldin urheiluharrastuksista myös hänen yrityksistään rahoittaa opiskeluaan työskentelemällä baarimikkona. Ronaldin äitiä esittävä Florence Turner oli vuosisadan alun ”The Vitagraph Girl”; yksi kaikkien aikojen ensimmäisistä elokuvatähdistä nähdään tässä yhdessä viimeisistä rooleistaan. – David Robinsonin mukaan (Buster Keaton, 1969), AA 1990 MMM ELOKUVAOPAS (1995, 2005) College Hyppyä, soutua, rakkautta USA © 1927 Joseph M. Schenck Productions. TJ: Joseph M. Schenck. T: Harry Brand. O: James W. Horne. KS: Carl Harbaugh, Bryan Foy. KU: Dev Jennings, Bert Haines. ET: Fred Gabourie. LE: J. S. Kell. N: Buster Keaton (poika), Anne Cornwall (tyttö), Flora Bramley (tytön ystävä), Harold Goodwin (kilpakosija), Snitz Edwards (dekaani). M: Ernst Luz. 1803 m /24 fps/ 66'     DVD: GoodTimes Home Video (2004) Heti eeppisen Kenraalin (1927) jälkeen Keaton teki pienimuotoisemman elokuvan, joka oli loistava näyteikkuna hänen akrobaattisille taidoilleen. Buster esittää mammanpoikaa ja kirjatoukkaa, jonka on kunnostauduttava kaikissa urheilulajeissa voittaakseen mielitiettynsä ihailun. AFI CATALOG HISTORY The 6 Feb 1927 FD announced that Buster Keaton was at work on a forthcoming comedy in which he would play a college boy. The yet-to-be-named picture was to be directed by James W. Horne, co-starring Anne Cornwall. The 22 Apr 1927 Motion Picture News reported that the film, now titled College, marked the second Keaton film, produced by Joseph M. Schenck Productions, to be released by United Artists Corp.        According to the 6 May 1927 Motion Picture News, production was currently in its third month, with interiors being filmed at the Buster Keaton Studios located at 1025 Las Palmas Avenue in Hollywood, CA, and exteriors shot at various California colleges and in Balboa, CA. In his book, Silent Echoes (Santa Monica, CA, 2000), author John Bengtson identifies the college exteriors as the campus of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, as well as the nearby Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The campus quad scenes were filmed at what is now Los Angeles City College on North Vermont Avenue. Some street scenes were filmed near the Keaton Studios, in particular on the 1000 block of Cahuenga Boulevard. Boating scenes were filmed at Balboa Park in Newport Beach, CA.        The 8 Jul 1927 Motion Picture News announced that the film had been completed, and a 10 Sep 1927 release date was anticipated.        The 14 Sep 1927 Var review praised the production values, but complained about the "hoked-up" titles. Keaton's performance, in certain scenes, was deemed "a joy," while other moments fell flat. According to Var, College was "just another program comedy" that did nothing to advance Keaton's standing. DETAILS Release Date: 10 September 1927 Premiere Information: New York opening: 10 September 1927 Production Date: early February--early July 1927 Copyright Claimant: Joseph M. Schenck Copyright Date: 10 September 1927 Copyright Number: LP24409 Physical Properties: Silent Black and White Length (in feet): 5,916 Length (in reels): 6 Country: United States Language: English Passed by NBR: No Buster Keaton / The boy Anne Cornwall /  The girl Flora Bramley / Her friend Harold Goodwin / A rival Buddy Mason, Grant Withers / His friends Snitz Edwards / The dean Carl Harbaugh / Crew coach Sam Crawford / Baseball coach Florence Turner / A mother Paul Goldsmith Morton Kaer Bud Houser Kenneth Grumbles Charles Borah Leighton Dye Lee Barnes "Shorty" Worden Robert Boling Erick Mack University of Southern California Baseball Team  / Themselves PRODUCTION COMPANY Joseph M. Schenck Productions PRODUCTION TEXTS Joseph M. Schenck presents A United Artists Production DISTRIBUTION COMPANY United Artists Corp. DIRECTOR James W. Horne, Dir PRODUCERS Joseph M. Schenck, Pres Harry Brand, Supv WRITERS Carl Harbaugh, Scen Bryan Foy, Scen Carl Harbaugh, Story Bryan Foy, Story PHOTOGRAPHY Dev Jennings, Dir of photog Bert Haines, Dir of photog ART DIRECTOR Fred Gabourie, Tech dir FILM EDITOR J. S. Kell, Film ed The Boy graduates from high school with interscholastic honors, and as class orator he speaks on "Brains vs. Brawn," demeaning athletics, thereby winning the favor of the pedagogs but not that of the students. His college sweetheart requires that he become an athlete, so he spends his savings and tries out for all sports and is a perfect flop. He goes to work to pay his way through school, but every job adds to his blunders. His rival takes delight in maneuvering The Girl to his place of employment and further humiliating him. Then the college dean takes an interest in The Boy and insists that the varsity coach give him a chance; through coincidence, he thwarts a plot against him and wins a race. Learning that his rival has locked The Girl in the dormitory, The Boy goes to the rescue, performing all the athletic feats he dreamed about, and knocks the rival cold; thus the weakling becomes the college idol.

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