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A Yank at Oxford
Directed by Jack Conway
Produced by Michael Balcon
Starring Robert Taylor
Lionel Barrymore
Maureen O'Sullivan
Vivien Leigh
Edmund Gwenn
Music by Hubert Bath
Edward Ward
Cinematography Harold Rosson
Editing by Margaret Booth
Charles Frend
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) 18 February 1938
Running time 102 min.
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Followed by A Yank at Eton

A Yank at Oxford is a British 1938 film comedy produced by the British branch of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed by Jack Conway from a screenplay by John Monk Saunders and Leon Gordon. The film was parodied in the 1940 Laurel and Hardy movie A Chump at Oxford and remade in 1984 as Oxford Blues.

Contents

Plot Summary

A cocky American named Lee Sheridan (Robert Taylor) receives a scholarship to attend Oxford University. At first Lee is reluctant to go to the college due to his father's limited income, but he finally does attend. Once in England, Lee brags about his athletic triumphs to Paul Beaumont (Griffith Jones), Wavertree (Robert Coote), and Ramsey (Peter Craft) on the train to Oxford. Annoyed they trick him into getting off the train at the wrong stop. However, Lee does make his way to Oxford where the students attempt to trick him into thinking that he is getting a grand reception. Seeing through the deception, he follows the prankster impersonating the Dean and after chasing him is thrown off and ends up kicking the real Dean (Edmund Gwenn) before retreating.

Lee considers leaving Oxford but stays on after being convinced by Scatters, his personal servant. Lee meets Elsa Craddock (Vivien Leigh) (a married woman who "helps" the new campus students) and starts a relationship with Paul Beaumont's sister Molly (Maureen O'Sullivan). Lee makes the track team and just when he begins to fit in he is hazed for pushing Paul out of the way during a track meet when asked to rest. In a fit of anger Lee goes to a local bar and finds Paul in a private booth with Elsa. He starts to fight with Paul when Wavertree comes in and warns them of campus officials coming. Lee and Paul run and when they are almost caught by one of the campus officials Lee punches him. Wavertree tells his friends that he saw Paul throw the punch and it is Paul who gets in trouble for hitting the official. He is scorned for saying it was Lee who punched him and Lee is soon the favorite of Paul's old friends. Molly begins to see him again, but Lee still feels poor for what has happened between her and Paul.

Lee begins rowing and tries to make amends to Paul after winning a race, but Paul rejects the offer of friendship. Though his offer of friendship was rejected Lee still helps Paul by hiding Elsa in his own room when Elsa is looking for Paul. The Dean catches the two of them together and expels Lee from Oxford. Lee's father, Dan Sheridan (Lionel Barrymore), comes for the bump races having not heard of Lee's expulsion from Oxford University. When Lee tells him that he had been having an affair with Elsa, Dan believes he is lying. Judging from Lee's letters about Molly he feels that Lee could not possibly have had an affair with Elsa due to the way he feels about Molly. Dan meets with Molly and the two devise a plan to get Lee back into college. Dan meets with Elsa at the bookstore and convinces her to talk to the Dean. After flirting with the Dean and telling him that Lee was only hiding her from Wavertree, Lee is allowed back into Oxford and Wavertree (much to his disgust for he has been trying to get expelled for an inheritance from his uncle) is let off with a slap on the wrist. Lee and Paul finally make amends and win the bump races.

Cast

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Casting

This was MGM's first British production, and so MGM head Louis B. Mayer took a personal interest in casting, and visited the set several times. At first, Mayer was reluctant to cast the then unknown Vivien Leigh in the role of Elsa Craddock, until persuaded by Michael Balcon, who stated that she was already living in Britain and it would cost much more to fly someone else out to England.[1] (Mayer and Balcon later got into a fight on set, within earshot of Vivien Leigh and Maureen O'Sullivan, that led to Balcon resigning from the film.)[1]

This film was instrumental in getting the then-unknown Vivien Leigh noticed by David O. Selznick for the film Gone with the Wind. However it was known perhaps as early as 1938 that Vivien Leigh had (secretly) secured the role of Scarlett O'Hara, which she started filming in 1939. There is a moment in "A Yank at Oxford" when Lee Sheridan goes in to his tutor. His tutor asks him what he's reading, meaning in British parlance what he planned on majoring in. Confused, Lee replies he is "about half way through 'Gone with the Wind.' Events surrounding Leigh at the time either make this a coincidental piece of scripting, or a knowing reference to those events.

The film pairs Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor as a romantic lead couple, a configuration repeated in the 1940 remake of Waterloo Bridge. Before this film, Taylor was seen as the "romantic love interest" and thus as a 1930s equivalent to Rudolph Valentino, with men therefore starting to doubt Taylor's masculinity. His casting in this film (by Mayer) was a successful attempt to put paid to such doubts, and dramatically boosted his reputation with both men and women.

This film marked Jon Pertwee's film debut.

During the filming of A Yank at Oxford, Leigh garnered herself a reputation as being "difficult" to work with. According to her biography by Alexander Walker, Leigh felt judged by Maureen O'Sullivan because O'Sullivan was happily married and Leigh was in the midst of a scandalous affair with Laurence Olivier and awaiting word of a divorce from her first husband, Leigh Holman. Therefore, the relationship was "strained." Also Leigh had developed a foot problem whereupon she asked to go to London to see her chiropractic. As Leigh was preparing to leave, the wardrobe department developed a manner in which they cut a hole in her shoes so that her toe would be at ease. According to Leigh, she was forced to pay for her own shoes and demanded that MGM help her make some of the payments. On the other hand, MGM said that they bought all of Leigh's shoes and she didn't have to pay a penny on the film. Due to the dispute, her manager, Alexander Korda, sent Leigh a message stating that if her behavior did not improve, he would not renew her contract. Leigh's behavior did shape up and her contract was renewed. Regardless of her prior behavior, Leigh managed to make her way through the filming without much acrimony and made an impression on her costar, Robert Taylor. Taylor returned to Hollywood talking of the great English actress he had worked with and suggested to Selznick, whom was still searching for his Scarlett O'Hara, that they ought to look at her.

Reception

Although this film and its sequel (the 1942 A Yank at Eton) portrayed the United Kingdom in a mainly positive light, it was thought to harm US-British relations at such a sensitive time.

Script

Jon Pertwee's father Roland Pertwee was one of several uncredited writers, and F. Scott Fitzgerald also spent three weeks working on the script, touching up rough points and adding bits of dialogue.[1]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Courtesy TCM

External links


A Yank at Oxford
Directed by Jack Conway
Produced by Michael Balcon
Starring Robert Taylor
Lionel Barrymore
Maureen O'Sullivan
Vivien Leigh
Edmund Gwenn
Music by Hubert Bath
Edward Ward
Cinematography Harold Rosson
Editing by Margaret Booth
Charles Frend
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) 18 February 1938
Running time 102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,374,000
Gross revenue $1,291,000 (Domestic earnings)
$1,445,000 (Foreign earnings)
Followed by A Yank at Eton

A Yank at Oxford is a 1938 British comedy-drama film produced by the British branch of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed by Jack Conway from a screenplay by John Monk Saunders and Leon Gordon. The film was parodied in the 1940 Laurel and Hardy movie A Chump at Oxford and remade in 1984 as Oxford Blues.

Contents

Plot summary

A cocky American named Lee Sheridan (Robert Taylor) receives a scholarship to attend Oxford University. At first Lee is reluctant to go to the college due to his father's limited income, but he finally does attend. Once in England, Lee brags about his athletic triumphs to Paul Beaumont (Griffith Jones), Wavertree (Robert Coote), and Ramsey (Peter Craft) on the train to Oxford. Annoyed, they trick him into getting off the train at the wrong stop. However, Lee does make his way to Oxford where the students attempt to trick him into thinking that he is getting a grand reception. Seeing through the deception, he follows the prankster impersonating the Dean and after chasing him is thrown off and ends up kicking the real Dean (Edmund Gwenn) before retreating.

Lee considers leaving Oxford but stays on after being convinced by Scatters, his personal servant. Lee meets Elsa Craddock (Vivien Leigh) (a married woman who "helps" the new campus students) and starts a relationship with Paul Beaumont's sister Molly (Maureen O'Sullivan). Lee makes the track team and just when he begins to fit in he is hazed for pushing Paul out of the way during a track meet when asked to rest. In a fit of anger Lee goes to a local bar and finds Paul in a private booth with Elsa. He starts to fight with Paul when Wavertree comes in and warns them of campus officials coming. Lee and Paul run and when they are almost caught by one of the campus officials Lee punches him. Wavertree tells his friends that he saw Paul throw the punch and it is Paul who gets in trouble for hitting the official. He is scorned for saying it was Lee who punched him and Lee is soon the favorite of Paul's old friends. Molly begins to see him again, but Lee still feels poor for what has happened between her and Paul.

Lee begins rowing and tries to make amends to Paul after winning a race, but Paul rejects the offer of friendship. Though his offer of friendship was rejected Lee still helps Paul by hiding Elsa in his own room when Elsa is looking for Paul. The Dean catches the two of them together and expels Lee from Oxford. Lee's father, Dan Sheridan (Lionel Barrymore), comes for the bump races having not heard of Lee's expulsion from Oxford University. When Lee tells him that he had been having an affair with Elsa, Dan believes he is lying. Judging from Lee's letters about Molly he feels that Lee could not possibly have had an affair with Elsa due to the way he feels about Molly. Dan meets with Molly and the two devise a plan to get Lee back into college. Dan meets with Elsa at the bookstore and convinces her to talk to the Dean. After flirting with the Dean and telling him that Lee was only hiding her from Wavertree, Lee is allowed back into Oxford and Wavertree (much to his disgust for he has been trying to get expelled for an inheritance from his uncle) is let off with a slap on the wrist. Lee and Paul finally make amends and win the bump races.

Cast

Casting

This was MGM's first British production, and so MGM head Louis B. Mayer took a personal interest in casting, and visited the set several times. At first, Mayer was reluctant to cast the then unknown Vivien Leigh in the role of Elsa Craddock, until persuaded by Michael Balcon, who stated that she was already living in Britain and it would cost much more to fly someone else out to England.[1] (Mayer and Balcon later got into a fight on set, within earshot of Vivien Leigh and Maureen O'Sullivan, that led to Balcon resigning from the film.)[1]

This film was instrumental in getting the then-unknown Vivien Leigh noticed by David O. Selznick for the film Gone with the Wind. However it was known perhaps as early as 1938 that Vivien Leigh had (secretly) secured the role of Scarlett O'Hara, which she started filming in 1939. There is a moment in "A Yank at Oxford" just a couple of minutes before Vivien Leigh first appears when Lee Sheridan goes in to his tutor. His tutor asks him what he's reading, meaning in British parlance what he planned on majoring in. Confused, Lee replies he is "about half way through 'Gone with the Wind.' Events surrounding Leigh at the time either make this a coincidental piece of scripting, or a knowing reference to those events.

The film pairs Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor as a romantic lead couple, a configuration repeated in the 1940 remake of Waterloo Bridge. Before this film, Taylor was seen as the "romantic love interest" and thus as a 1930s equivalent to Rudolph Valentino, with men therefore starting to doubt Taylor's masculinity. His casting in this film (by Mayer) was a successful attempt to put paid to such doubts, and dramatically boosted his reputation with both men and women.

This film marked Jon Pertwee's film debut.

During the filming of A Yank at Oxford, Leigh garnered herself a reputation as being "difficult" to work with. According to her biography by Alexander Walker, Leigh felt judged by Maureen O'Sullivan, (whom she had befriended years earlier at school) because O'Sullivan was happily married and Leigh was in the midst of a scandalous affair with Laurence Olivier and awaiting word of a divorce from her first husband, Leigh Holman. Therefore, the relationship was "strained." Also Leigh had developed a foot problem whereupon she asked to go to London to see her chiropractic. As Leigh was preparing to leave, the wardrobe department developed a manner in which they cut a hole in her shoes so that her toe would be at ease. According to Leigh, she was forced to pay for her own shoes and demanded that MGM help her make some of the payments. On the other hand, MGM said that they bought all of Leigh's shoes and she didn't have to pay a penny on the film. Due to the dispute, her manager, Alexander Korda, sent Leigh a message stating that if her behavior did not improve, he would not renew her contract. Leigh's behavior did shape up and her contract was renewed. Regardless of her prior behavior, Leigh managed to make her way through the filming without much acrimony and made an impression on her costar, Robert Taylor. Taylor returned to Hollywood talking of the great English actress he had worked with and suggested to Selznick, who was still searching for his Scarlett O'Hara, that they ought to look at her.

Reception

Although this film and its sequel (the 1942 A Yank at Eton) portrayed the United Kingdom in a mainly positive light, it was thought to harm US-British relations at such a sensitive time.

Script

Jon Pertwee's father Roland Pertwee was one of several uncredited writers, and F. Scott Fitzgerald also spent three weeks working on the script, touching up rough points and adding bits of dialogue.[1]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Courtesy TCM

External links


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