Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Yank at Oxford (1938)

Do not ask me why but one day I watched an episode of The Jersey Shore where they go to Italy (it is bad enough I live a half hour away from Sleazside- excuse me- Seaside). All I could think of was why did the Italian government allow these assholes into their country. They are the last group of people who should be allowed in a cultured place. I was so pissed off because they went to the country for free and none of them appreciated the culture or the art and architecture when someone like me who loves art and history and appreciates and respects other cultures has to pay an arm and a leg to go.
            This just proves how ignorant people can be of other cultures. I find that Americans are the worst at respecting other cultures. When you are in a foreign country you need to respect the people who live there and their customs and shut the hell up about how they think America is awesome. That drives me so insane.
            A Yank at Oxford pokes fun at Americans and their ignorance about other countries. The film is about Lee Sheridan (Robert Taylor) who is an All-American colligate athlete. His father Dan (Lionel Barrymore) does nothing but praise him in his paper and reports on Lee’s events. The college Lee is at in his small hometown does not want him there anymore since he does not do well in his classes so the dean decides to send him to Cardinal College (a fictional school) at Oxford where he happens to be friends with one of their deans. Right away Lee sees this opportunity as a way to show the Brits what Americans are made of and thinks of ways he can beat them at sports. He is given a big send off with a parade that the whole town attends.
            While taking the train to London he meets three fellow Oxford students named Paul Beaumont, Wavertree, and Ramsey. They see Lee as an American showoff and they do not like that. They play a trick on him telling him that there is a procession waiting for him at the station that he should get off at the next station. Lee agrees he does not want to make a bad impression on the other students. Before he gets off he meets Paul’s sister Molly (Maureen O’Sullivan). Lee gets off the train and finds that the school is ten miles away.
            When Lee gets to the college Paul plays another trick this time it is one that is meant to boost Lee’s too big ego. Lee sees through the trick and is upset. This starts off his rivalry with Paul that threatens to run both of them out of the college.
            The athletes begin to like Lee. He wins the track team some titles. At one race everyone sees him for the ultra competitor he is when he get taken out of a race but knocks Paul out when he feels Paul is running too slow. Molly does not like what Lee has done not just because he knocked her brother out of the race but because it was very un-sportsman-like.
            As the film goes on there is still a lot of back and forth between Lee and Paul and they actually cover for each other when each gets into big trouble. They eventually make up and become friends to help win the rowing championship against Cambridge. And Lee does end up with Molly; she and Dan help to get him out of some deep trouble. In the end Lee learns to be a team player.
            Robert Taylor was the best choice for the lead. He really did have that All-American colligate look to him. He was incredibly handsome and outrageously well built. Maureen O’Sullivan was ridiculously adorable and sweet as Molly. This is the best film I have seen her in she was not over the top she was just right. There was a very cute scene between her and Taylor in the bookstore when they talk between the bookshelves. Vivien Leigh plays Elsa Craddock who is a much younger woman married to a much older man. Elsa and her husband run the local bookstore where the students go for their books. She gets all her attention from the younger men on campus. Paul is her latest squeeze but of course she starts flirting with Lee as soon as she lays eyes on him. Leigh was a year away from playing her most famous role, in her few scenes you can just see that she had a load of star power she completely commands your attention (even if she looks awful with pencil thin eyebrows and a bad hair style). Lionel Barrymore was made to look like a little old man. He was good but I have not seen a film of his yet where he was not excellent. The rest of the cast were all well known British actors.
            Knowing that Vivien Leigh got the part of Scarlett O’Hara most likely that year there is a good part in the film: Lee is meeting with his tutor for the first time and the tutor asks him what he is reading. Lee responds that he is reading Gone With the Wind but he is only half way through it.
            A Yank at Oxford is a very cute film romantic comedy. At times the constant back and forth between Lee and Paul gets tiresome but for the most part the film is very enjoyable and very funny. Robert Taylor, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Vivien Leigh were great to see together (especially O’Sullivan and Leigh because they were good friends in real life when they were still at school in England). I liked how A Yank at Oxford poked fun of how ignorant Americans can be and how ridiculously we are obsessed with sports and being the best.


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