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This movie tells the story of one college student and his trials and tribulations as he pledges the Gamma Nu Pi Fraternity at a fictional Eastern school. Strikingly honest portrayal that shows what pledging was truly like in the 1950's. Good acting by a largely unknown cast, along with a good script makes for an engaging movie. Almost a must see for anyone who has gone through fraternity pledging.
When this film was released by Paramount, it was hyped as an anti
fraternity, expose'. The marketers played up the alcohol, pledging rituals
and other negative stereotypes commonly attributed to fraternities. In
actuality, this film which was a student production at USC and depicts a
true story from the late 50's, is the loving but critical tribute by its
author/producer to his friend whose story is told in this film.
While it looks with an blinking and critical eye at the many shortcomings including bigotry and other evils of pledging in that era it also is clear that the writer has a love for the ideal of fraternity and what it can be to young idealists such as Zac, the protagonist. That the reality, in this instance, falls far short of the ideal and results in terrible tragedy, provides the irony and conflict of this really very well done thesis project.
Although it was released by Paramount, it is still owned by USC and for that reason has never been released to video. Probably the only way to see it is by direct rental from USC or when it occasionally shows up on television.
I worked on Fraternity Row, mostly extra work, and I handled the boom
mike for about half the picture. In fact, the unmistakable mike shadow
right across an actor's close-up that survives today was my doing --
heck, it was 6 AM at the end of an all-night shoot. But it teaches you
the value of adequate coverage.
Anyway, one day we were to shoot a scene that was supposed to put the rest of the story into flashback -- and into the USC classroom we were using come four seasoned character actors who showed up for one day's work -- Cliff Robertson, John Anderson, Andrew Duggan, and Pat Hingle. For me, it was a great thrill to work with these vets whom I had enjoyed on the screen for years. During the lunch break I ate with Messrs Anderson and Duggan, and they were first-class gentlemen, now sadly gone on to their rewards. Too bad that Tom Tobin, who went on to another business, couldn't make that one scene work with the rest of the picture. It never made it in.
I'm in another business now, but I think back to those summer days in 1976 (when the picture was shot) with great fondness. Particularly fond of the gorgeous "sorority girls" who were always around the set. Ah, show business...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've seen this movie a couple of times on TV a long time ago. I saw it first as a college student with a group of other late Seventies students, who were absolutely spellbound by the story and the characters. I have seldom seen an audience ,albeit a small one, get so involved in a movie. The early to mid-Fifties atmosphere was amazingly well captured. It seemed like looking through a telescope at the past, when elaborate rituals and traditions of sororities and fraternities were commonplace on college campuses. The writing, direction and acting are first rate. It has a lot of humor, but ends up being one of the saddest, most moving films I've ever seen. The two young male actors who portray the narrator and his friend, and the two young actresses who play their girl friends, are first rate. There's a warm,lovable performance by Robert Emhardt as the college dean, which is completely different from the villain roles he's best known for. This movie is worth trying to see, though it hasn't been shown for a long time. Definitely recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I feel very fortunate to have seen Fraternity Row at a special
screening along with about 400 fellow members of the Lambda Chi Alpha
Fraternity in a theater at Knoxville's University of Tennessee campus.
We were shown the film during our Leadership Seminar in mid-August of
1977. The producer and writer, Charles Gary Allison, introduced the
movie and graciously stuck around for a Q & A afterwords. Needless to
say, practically everyone was pretty misty- eyed by the time the end
My fraternity had passed a comprehensive anti-hazing policy in 1972, and Fraternity Row spoke volumes to a crowd that was involved in pioneering the idea that fraternities should abstain from hazing and abusive ritual practices. This movie is probably the most painful reminder to date of just how destructive fraternity hazing can be.
Allison's USC master's project received a token distribution by Paramount in art houses and college campuses later that year and has appeared sporadically on TV in the years since. Unfortunately, it has received hardly any exposure in the past couple of decades outside of USC's film library.
The hazing incident depicted in Fraternity Row's final act still hits home even though the story depicts some positive aspects of fraternity life in the 1950s. In spite of the movie's graphic re-creation of a cruel and ultimately deadly hazing incident, it's too bad that only a handful of college students will ever get the chance to see this film. In the years since its release, who knows how many fraternity chapter members might have avoided making similarly stupid choices if they'd watched this movie?
While I don't expect that this movie will ever become a staple of cable or satellite TV movie channels, it should become required viewing for college audiences that want to enhance their Greek fraternity and sorority community relations. A DVD of this underrated film project should see the light of day.
As I recall, this was a University of Southern California thesis project for
Gary Allison, the writer and producer of the film. After the film was
completed, it was sold to Paramount. Everyone of the student actors and
technicians were offered union membership. Especially, for the technical
people, this became their entry into Hollywood.
For whatever reason, it has never been available on tape or dvd. Watch for it, as it may be a little dated, but it is still very enjoyable.
I first saw this movie on vacation in San Diego in 1977 and was immediately struck by the star quality of the two leads, Gregory Harrison (who became a star) and the female (a film student who apparently never made another movie). I'd love to see this again, but have never seen it listed on T.V. and it doesn't appear available on video tape. It was a film project of the USC Film School.
Purportedly based on a true incident. This takes place in a (fictional)
college in the 1950s. It involves some freshman who want to get into a
fraternity. They pledge and have to go through hell and hazing to be
accepted. One of the fraternity brothers (Scott Newman in his last
role) really has it in for the freshman...and it leads to deadly
I caught this years ago on TV. It played with no fanfare on a summer afternoon. I was impressed by how well made it is and the cast of (then) unknowns were very good. Newman and Gregory Harrison especially were excellent. It's a grim sobering look of what can happen when hazing gets completely out of hand. There are laws against hazing in most colleges in the US...but it still goes on and young men still die. This should be required viewing for ALL college students. Also a rare chance to see Paul Newman's only son in an acting role--he sadly died of a drug overdose a year after this came out. Worth catching--if you get the chance.
This is a valuable teaching tool for anyone working with fraternity
systems in Colleges and Universities.
I saw it on TV while I was a College student. I eventually worked in Higher Education for over 20 years and for a long time wished I had a copy to use for Greek in-service education. A few years ago I was able to purchase a copy on ebay. I received a document which attests that Fraternity Row is a public domain movie.
The narration is smooth and focused. The acting, centered and honest. While it can be looked on as time capsule body of work the relevance of this true story still resonates with college students today.
At a tony Pennsylvania college in 1954, an idealistic young man--who has faith in his belief of true-blue brotherhood--becomes a new fraternity pledge and tries to change the hierarchy inherent to the somewhat sadistic them-vs.-us system. Oppressive with nostalgia, sentiment, and pathos, this rather unhappy enterprise begins as an affectionate remembrance but winds up a cautionary tale (all the while narrated by Cliff Robertson who, in his fare-thee-well manner, coats the production with a "Waltons"-styled solemnity). Some of the dialogue exchanges are interesting, and screenwriter Charles Gary Allison (who also produced) is deft enough to give us several good guys and not just one sacrificial lamb. However, for a seemingly-autobiographical drama, the film comes up short on dramatic inspiration, and we never get to know most of the characters on display. Allison works his way up to one major plot development, which is handled bluntly by director Thomas J. Tobin, while the impressive cast of young actors get stuck performing all on one note. *1/2 from ****
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