A YANK AT OXFORD (1938) 

Robert Taylor
Lionel Barrymore
Maureen O'Sullivan
Vivien Leigh
Edmund Gwenn
Griffith Jones
C.V. France
Edward Rigby
Morton Selten
Tully Marshall
Walter Kingsford
Noel Howlett

Jack Conway


About Leigh

Time: 102 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Sport/Romance

In one of his first starring roles, Robert Taylor proves he's more than just a pretty face in this tale of a young American trying to survive the rigors and rivalries of Oxford. Though the film takes place at the famed college, not much book-learning takes place. Taylor's character, Lee Sheridan, is an outgoing and egocentric athlete who doesn't secure his scholarship through academics. His initial excitement at being in England is quickly dampened by an outlandish practical joke that gets him in trouble with the dean and sparks a bitter feud with it's perpetrator Paul Beaumont (Jones).

A burgeoning relationship with Beaumont's sister Molly (O'Sullivan) doesn't help matters. Though Lee is clearly as gifted a runner he touts himself to be, his attitude and actions to prove it make his situation even more precarious. When his friendship with the married local welcome wagon (played perkily by a pre-Scarlett Vivien Leigh) draws the attention it looks like he's going to be ousted for good, losing Molly's heart and ensuring his father's (Barrymore) disappointment at missing him race for Oxford. While Lee may be arrogant he's not stupid or sleazy, proving time and again that he has a good heart under all that muscle. He may not like Paul, but, out of respect for the ladies who love him, he refuses to stab him in the back either.

This is a fairly simple story, yet the characters are all well-defined with each playing a distinct and important role. Everybody learns a little something about themselves, though thankfully without giant "message moments" thrust down your throat. The many sports sequences add fun and excitement to the drama and give the film a realism that helps the atmosphere of honorable Oxford go down easier. An entertaining, if fantastical take on college life in pre-WWII England.

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