Musical Monday: College Holiday (1936)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is more than 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

college holidayThis week’s musical:
“College Holiday” (1936)– Musical #527

Paramount Pictures

Frank Tuttle

Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, George Burns, Marsha Hunt, Martha Raye, Mary Boland, Leif Erickson, Ben Blue, Johnny Downs, Eleanore Whitney, Olympe Bradna, Mischa Auer (uncredited), Ellen Drew (uncredited), Eddie Foy, Jr. (uncredited), Dorothy Lamour (uncredited), Marjorie Reynolds (uncredited)

Dick Winters (Erickson) meets Sylvia Smith (Hunt) at an east coast college dance and falls in love. But before he can learn her name she has to quickly leave to head home and help her father who is having financial problems with their California hotel. Nutty heiress Carola P. Gaye (Boland) owns the mortgage to the hotel and has an interest in eugenics; believing that ancient Greeks were the “super race.” In order for the Smiths to keep the hotel, J. Davis Bowster (Benny) gathers entertainers to perform at the hotel, making Gaye believe that they are there for experiments. The downside is that the male and female students can’t fraternize, because it will anger Gaye and ruin her experiments. This hinders Dick’s goal to better get to know Sylvia.

George Burns, Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, Mary Boland

George Burns, Jack Benny, Gracie Allen, Mary Boland

-Costumes by Edith Head
-Film features Dorothy Lamour as an uncredited dancer.

Notable Songs:
-The Sweetheart Waltz
-(Enchanted) I Adore You performed by Marsha Hunt & Leif Erickson
-A Rhyme for Love performed by Johnny Downs and Eleanore Whitney
-So What? performed by Martha Raye

My review:
While many college themed films are a bit silly, I usually go out of my way to see them.

“College Holiday” fits of the bill of being goofy but it’s bizarre plot sets it apart from other collegiate films. In fact, this may be the only comedic pre-World War II film that I have ever seen that deals with eugenics and superior races. Mary Boland walks around dressed in ancient Greek garb and discussing the “super race” and tries experiments, such as setting the mood to get mismatched college students to fall in love. Many classic collegiate films deal with football games, dances, and fraternities serenading sororities.

As Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne noted, this type of storyline wouldn’t be used just a few years after this films release due to Adolf Hitler’s views on the superior race.

Gracie Allen and George Burns all provide humorous, though sometimes tiresome, scenes. But he real treat to me was the casting of the lovely Marsha Hunt, who I always love to see in films.

Audiences also have the pleasure of seeing tap dance performances by young actors Johnny Downs and Eleanore Whitney. The downside is that their second number has the two college students in blackface.

Jack Benny also has funny scenes and pulls out his violin a few times. At the end of the movie, Benny breaks the fourth wall, addressing the audience while playing the same role and character that he portrayed on the radio.

While “College Holiday” isn’t an amazing film and has a few irritating parts involving Gracie Allen, it’s still a fairly entertaining film.

Marsha Hunt and Leif Erickson

Marsha Hunt and Leif Erickson

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