30 July 2010 | bkoganbing
You Gotta Be A Football Hero
College Rhythm was one of the best examples of a Thirties college musical where knowledge acquired and reasoning skills sharpened was about the last thing on everyone's mind. First and foremost was football and Jack Oakie picks up from his role in College Humor, also for Paramount as the blowhard All American football player.
He's got a running feud with the studious Lanny Ross who is the son of a rich department store owner George Barbier. Ross and Oakie are also rivals for campus queen Mary Brian.
Ross says in no uncertain terms that while Oakie maybe the big man on campus now when he gets in the real world he's going to have problems. And at first Oakie does, but when he goes to work for Barbier, Barbier is enthralled by Oakie's celebrity status and starts favoring Oakie over his kid. This all is upsetting to salesgirl Helen Mack who really likes Lanny, but he can't see her for Brian.
One of Oakie's ideas is for the store to sponsor a football team and Barbier whose family name in the film is Stacy thinks its grand. Of course rival department store owner Whimple played by Robert McWade then has to get his football team.
Pro football was not what it has become back in the Depression days. Still I can't see Knute Rockne's Four Horseman or Red Grange ever selling themselves to teams sponsored by Stacy and Whimple.
Lyda Roberti has a couple of numbers as the head cheerleader for Stacy's football team and their mascot is radio comedian Joe Penner. His style is the equivalent of a combination of Harry Langdon and Lou Costello. As his radio catch phrase was 'Wanna buy a duck' he gets a pet duck to tote around the entire film. Penner also sings a love song to his pet which is ludicrous, especially since Lyda Roberti is interested in him. Both these performers died way too young within 8 years of the release of College Rhythm.
One of the best songwriting teams of the Thirties wrote the score for College Rhythm. Harry Revel and Mack Gordon first wrote for Paramount including some Bing Crosby films besides this and then later moved to 20th Century Fox where they wrote nearly all of Alice Faye's movie songs for about five years. Here they gave Lanny Ross his signature song, Stay As Sweet As You Are and they also wrote Take A Number From One To Ten and the title song for Lyda Roberti in this film. I'd hate to have you think their talents ended with Joe Penner's song, GooGoo I'm Gaga over you. GooGoo was the name of Penner's duck.
Lanny Ross had a great baritone voice and had a great career on radio where he did not have to face the public. Ross was a male version of Jean Arthur who was also terrified of audiences. But as Ross was a singer, radio proved to be a godsend for him. He did a few films and his best known besides College Rhythm was that he was the voice of Gulliver in the Fleischer Studios animated Gulliver's Travels.
College Rhythm is a film planted firmly in the Thirties, that kind of film I can truly say will not be made again. But it's a delightful bit of nonsense and holds up pretty good.