Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… College Swing (1938)

Well, I’m back with my thoughts on the movie College Swing. The movie stars George Burns, Gracie Allen, Martha Raye, Bob Hope, and Edward Everett Horton.

We find the movie starting in 1738, at a graduation ceremony where Gracie Alden is again denied graduation, since she had failed in all her studies for the ninth year in a row. Between her grandfather and the schoolmaster, they argue whether it would be possible for an Alden female to graduate from the school within two hundred years. If one could, she would inherit the grandfather’s money and take charge of the school, otherwise the money would be left to the school. Fast forward two hundred years, the modern day Gracie Alden is struggling with her studies, and hires Bud Brady (Bob Hope) to be her tutor. He cheats, getting a hold of the examination questions and researching the answers for her. She “passes” the exam, and takes over the college, hiring many unorthodox professors.

This movie is a bit of an all-star comedy. It was made back during a time when the stars were generally under contract to one specific studio for X number of years, usually drawing a weekly paycheck, and so sometimes studios might stick a lot of their stars together in one movie to get their money’s worth. Besides the aforementioned stars, this movie also stars Betty Grable, at a time when the studios were still not quite sure what to do with her, her then husband Jackie Coogan (famous as the titular kid in Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid, as well as being Uncle Fester in the 1960s TV show The Addams Family), Jerry Colonna (most probably don’t know his name or his face, but I think they’ve heard his voice, most particularly as the voice of the March Hare in Walt Disney’s animated Alice in Wonderland), and John Payne (who is probably much better known for his role as Santa’s lawyer Fred Gailey in the 1947 Miracle On 34th Street). Apparently, we also have the Slate brothers here, who seem to veer into Three Stooges territory for humor (although they don’t do it quite as well).

Of course, the bigger stars of this movie also deserve a little focus, too. We have George Burns and Gracie Allen (although they are separated for a good part of the movie, with Gracie being given the focus), and if the very concept of Gracie being in charge of a college doesn’t make you laugh, then you don’t her, and I would suggest trying to find The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (their radio program) via podcast. This is Bob Hope’s second movie, made at a time when he hadn’t quite fully developed his screen persona, although we can certainly see a few parts of it shining through. Edward Everett Horton is truly hilarious here. I’ll admit, some of his comments are quite sexist, although I would like to think they are still funny, because they stem from a total and complete fear of women (after all, I think the movie says his character has been in the jungle for nearly 20 years to avoid women entirely, and when we do see him meet any women, he rather comically runs from them).

The movie itself is rather fun. I don’t think anybody can mistake it as being an accurate portrayal (even for then) of college life (at least, again, not if you consider the concept of Gracie being in charge of a college), but the movie should be worth some fun.

The movie is available on DVD from Universal.

Film Length: 1 hour, 26 minutes

My Rating: 8/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

A Damsel In Distress (1937) – George Burns/Gracie Allen (screen team) – Honolulu (1939)

Double Or Nothing (1937) – Martha Raye – Keep ‘Em Flying (1941)

Bob HopeThe Cat And The Canary (1939)

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938) – Edward Everett Horton – Holiday (1938)

Jerry Colonna – Road To Singapore (1940)

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