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College (1927)

Not Rated | | Comedy, Drama, Sport | November 1927 (USA)
To reconcile with his girlfriend, a bookish college student tries to become an athlete.


, (uncredited)


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Complete credited cast:
The Girl
Flora Bramley ...
Her Friend
A Rival
Snitz Edwards ...
The Dean
Carl Harbaugh ...
Sam Crawford ...
A Mother
A Son


Ronald's high school valedictory address praises books and condemns sports. His girlfriend Mary condemns his attitude. He fears losing her to rival Jeff, decides to go to college and pay more attention to sports. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Comedy | Drama | Sport


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

November 1927 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Buster Keaton, der Student  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In an interview with author Kevin Brownlow, Buster Keaton said that he directed almost all of this film and that credited co-director James W. Horne did virtually none of it. Keaton said that his business manager talked him into using Horne, but that Horne proved "absolutely worthless to me . . . I don't know why we had him." See more »


Referenced in The Freshman (1990) See more »


The Entertainer
written by Scott Joplin
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User Reviews

Bookworm Buster Gets "Fizzical"
8 December 2008 | by (Greenwich, CT United States) – See all my reviews

Incredible stunts and deadpan expressions were Buster Keaton's stock in trade, but his best films relied on more to interest audiences. "College" plays more like a filler project between more ambitious efforts, showcasing the talents of its silent comic star only in fits and starts.

Buster plays Ronald, valedictorian of his high school class but too poor to afford college and a shot at the woman he loves, Clayton State College freshman Mary Haynes (Anne Cornwall). He enrolls at Clayton anyway, tries his hand at work, and jumps into scholastic athletics despite his grievous lack of physical coordination. Mary is impressed he's trying, but his old rival Jeff (Harold Goodwin) is one of many who block his path.

Directed by James W. Horne and an uncredited Keaton as an excuse for a series of sports-related gags, "College" barely makes it to its running time of just over an hour, even with the padding of a long intro centered around Buster's high-school graduation. Ronald's college career seems to consist of alternating bouts of athletics and hazing, with some period shots of USC's campus for atmosphere.

Buster's stone face is a little more expressive in this film, beginning with his big graduation speech, an ironic denunciation of sports he delivers with amusing, eye-bulging passion as he sways from side to side, feet planted on the floor. "What have Ty Ruth or Babe Dempsey done for Science!" he demands, angering his classmates so much they leave in mid-ceremony.

Speaking of Ty Cobb, his former Tiger teammate Sam Crawford appears here as Clayton's baseball coach in one of the better sequences (he was really USC's baseball coach at the time). As the third baseman, Buster gets caught in a rundown, then as a baserunner manages to cause a triple play by himself. Crawford finally ends things by gives Buster the boot.

The overall storyline is episodic and haphazard. For a job, Buster first works as a soda jerk, scattering milk and eggs hither and yon until Mary walks in and Buster ashamedly pretends to be a customer, too. This would seem a promising idea, but instead the boss confronts him and Buster walks out, ending that whole deal with a shrug. Later, he tries to be a "colored waiter" by donning blackface. The color comes off; the sequence doesn't.

Even the celebrated visual trickery found in Keaton's other films gets short shrift here. The most prominent involves him being tossed up in the air holding an umbrella, which causes him to "slow" when falling. It's a poor device in service of a weak gag, involving a heavyset woman dressing at a window who gets annoyed at Buster's apparent peeping. Like much else in the film, it could have been eliminated without notice.

Finally, with the help of a friendly dean who identifies with Buster's lovelorn state, he gets a varsity position as the coxswain, or "coaxer" as Buster calls it, for Clayton's crew team, which must win their big race or face elimination from the school program.

There's an energetic ending, like the blackface humor rather dated, in which Buster must save Mary from a fate worse than death - being caught in her room with a boy. Never mind the couple's fully dressed and she's struggling to get out; it's instant expulsion for her if she's caught. Here, rushing to save her, Buster shows off the athleticism that he has been keeping under cover for the whole film, and it's a nice payoff in that you get laughs and thrills, standard fare in most Keaton films though only in evidence here in the last few minutes.

Like many commenters have already noted, "College" is regarded as a lesser Keaton, though its last shot is jaw-droppingly memorable; Keaton's unsentimental sensibilities at their stoniest. It's a good thing he used the shot for a film like "College"; it might have spoiled one of his funnier efforts.

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