By Doug Gibson
It's been several months since we posted a review of one of the lesser (read non-Three Stooges) Columbia comedy shorts, so let's continue this infrequent series with the 1941 short, "Fresh as a Freshman," (watch it above courtesy of The Columbia Shorts Department).
"Fresh as a Freshman" was part of The Glove Slingers series of comedy shorts. It followed the life of young boxer Terry Kelly, played by David Durand in this offering, but there were three Terrys in the series. As Ed Watz and Ted Okuda note in their book The Columbia Comedy Shorts, the Glove Slingers were a sequential series, rare for the Columbia shorts.
But this presented some problems with finding a theme for the series. Initially, Terry is a boxer, but then he goes off to college, with romance, songs and dance and the inevitable fistfight climax. "Fresh as a Freshman," directed by Jules White, is moderately entertaining but encompasses the series' failure to latch on to a regular theme. There's Terry, his ma, his buffoonish but warm-hearted manager and trainer duo, a girl (Pamela Blake) Terry gets a crush on, college life, an oafish former boyfriend, and another cute girl (Dona Drake) who does a singing act in the middle of the 18 minute short.
That's a lot of fish on the fire and the oafish slapstick of Terry's boxing world uneasily cohabits with the college life and fraternity dances.
The plot: Terry, on his way to school, takes a picture for ma. The previous failed picture of a beautiful coed meshes with Terry's dime slot picture. He falls in love with her and improbably meets her fixing her car. Even more improbably he mistakes this beautiful woman in mechanic's garb for a guy.
Anyway, they're a couple at college but the ex-boyfriend recruits the aforementioned singer to pretend to be Terry's paramour, thereby alienating his current girlfriend. Terry's ma and boxing team come up to college for a mixer and all is eventually resolved with Terry punching the oaf and kissing his girl.
I've omitted the constant slapstick, usually involving the trainer and manager or the ex-boyfriend. There's some racist humor early and Jules White's penchant for violent humor gets in. In an early scene, Terry kicks his newfound love in the butt when she loses a car part. He doesn't know it's her then but it's still cringe worthy.
I love the Columbia comedy shorts. Watch this just to learn a bit more about the comedy shorts that shared screen time with the Stooges. The Glove Slingers only lasted for 12 episodes and "Fresh as a Freshman" underscores why its time was limited. There were too many tools in the box for the Glove Slingers to maintain the interest necessary to have a long run.