string of films set on college campuses released in the late '40s and early '50s. The movie doesn't break any new ground, but it serves as pleasing, colorful entertainment for those who enjoy the lead actors and/or the college campus setting.
For complicated reasons revolving around a financial dry spell and a family scholarship, widowed Abigail Fortitude Abbott (Loretta Young) must begin attending Pointer College along with her daughter Susan (Betty Lynn), a sophomore, or they will not have the funds for Susan to complete her college years.
Much to her surprise, Abby finds she enjoys obtaining a college education, especially as she gets to know a handsome English literature professor (Van Johnson, on loan to Fox from MGM). Abby and Richard's romance is complicated by Susan's crush on Richard...
This is, quite simply, my kind of movie. It's a cheerful, fast-paced romance with an attractive cast, set in a lovely location and filmed in beautiful Fox Technicolor. The costumes by Kay Nelson were nominated for the Academy Award.
Loretta Young is a particular favorite of mine, and she and Johnson are enjoyable in the lead roles. Neither role is very demanding, but Young's pleased reactions are cute when she receives wolf whistles after she "lets her hair down" to blend in with the other students. It briefly looks as though Johnson's character is going to be a campus Lothario, only to have the script quickly do a U-turn and reassure viewers that he's a sincere, true-blue guy.
Betty Lynn had previously starred as "Boo" Brinker in JUNE BRIDE (1948). She also appeared in CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950) and TAKE CARE OF MY LITTLE GIRL (1951). Perhaps best known for her role as Thelma Lou on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, Lynn is now 84 and retired in North Carolina.
The supporting cast includes Rudy Vallee as Abby's stuffy attorney and Barbara Lawrence as Susan's roommate; the previous year Vallee and Lawrence had played husband and wife in Preston Sturges' UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948).
I chuckled when I recognized Charles Lane simply from the back of his head in a scene where he administers a college entrance exam to Abby. In 1948's APARTMENT FOR PEGGY he played a tough college chemistry professor.
Debra Paget turns up in a couple of scenes as Linda, a beautiful co-ed, and Jeff Richards, who later worked at MGM in films such as SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954), dances with Barbara Lawrence near the end of the film. Griff Barnett is charming as the college dean.
The cast also includes Robert Arthur, Kathleen Hughes, Marietta Canty, and Claire Meade.
Like other Fox films such as MARGIE (1946), APARTMENT FOR PEGGY (1948), and MR. BELVEDERE GOES TO COLLEGE (1949), MOTHER IS A FRESHMAN was filmed on the beautiful campus of the University of Nevada at Reno. You can read about the campus history, including movies filmed there, in an article originally published in Nevada Magazine.
This film was directed by Lloyd Bacon. It runs 81 minutes.
MOTHER IS A FRESHMAN recently joined the rotation at Fox Movie Channel, which will be showing the film again next Tuesday, January 18th.
2012 Update: MOTHER IS A FRESHMAN is now available on DVD-R in the Fox Cinema Archives line.