Tom Brown shows up at Harvard, confident and a bit arrogant. He becomes a rival of Bob McAndrew, not only in football and rowing crew, but also for the affections of Mary Abbott, a professor\'s daughter.
William Haines ... Tom Brown
Jack Pickford ... Jim Doolittle
Mary Brian ... Mary Abbott
Ralph Bushman ... Bob McAndrew (as Francis X. Bushman Jr.)
Mary Alden ... Mrs. Brown
David Torrence ... Mr. Brown
Edward Connelly ... Professor Abbott
Guinn \'Big Boy\' Williams ... Hal Walters (as Guinn Williams)
Donald Reed ... Reggie Smythe (as Ernest Gillen)
One of the biggest hits of 1926, Brown of Harvard is a exciting comedy/drama featuring regatta and football scenes that gave William Haines the role he needed to become a major star. It\'s patented Haines all the way: brash smart aleck who takes nothing serious until he is rejected by everyone wises up and becomes a man/hero and wins the girl. No one worked this formula like Haines. A terrific comic actor (Little Annie Rooney with Mary Pickford, Show People with Marion Davies), Haines could swing from comedy to tragedy with a change in facial expression. He is a total joy in this film as he was in Tell It to the Marines (with Lon Chaney) and West Point (with Joan Crawford), where he repeats the formula. Mary Brian is good as the girl, Jack Pickford is very good as the sickly roommate, Ralph Bushman is the rival. Edward Connelly, Mary Alden, David Torrence, Guinn Williams, and Grady Sutton co-star. This film is noted now for its homoerotic relationship between Haines and Pickford and for being John Wayne\'s film debut as a Yale football player (but I never spotted him). Haines was a top-five box office star starting with this picture through 1932. It\'s a shame he has been largely forgotten and that most of his films appear to be lost. He was one of the most appealing and talented actors of his time.
This is an extraordinary film, that tricks you constantly. It seems to be heading toward cliche at several points, and then something astonishing will happen that genuinely startles. It would give away too much to say much more, but stick with this film and you will be richly rewarded. William Haines is absolutely delightful - he is certainly a star that deserves to be re-discovered. The gay subtext in his relationship with Jack Pickford is amazing - there is even a scene where Haines rubs Pickford\'s chest (Pickford has a cold). Both actors play this sub-text subtlely and with great depth of emotion, so that there are moments that are very moving. And I never thought I could get so involved in a football match as I did in this movie - and I don\'t even understand the rules! Also excellent is Francis X. Bushman\'s son Ralph as Haines\' rival for the girl (yes, it\'s not completely a gay movie). Wonderful silent classic - a great example of Twenties commercial cinema with an edge.
I\'ve been intrigued by this film for a while, in part because of the extremely high score here on IMDb -- a 9.0 average with over 300 votes gives it the highest rating of any accessible silent film! How had I not heard of this film before this website? Well, you can\'t always trust the ratings. This is actually a very good film, preserved quite well if the fine VHS transfer I rented is any indication -- excellent acting by the principals, especially William Haines as Brown, and good location work at Cambridge with some fine action footage in the climactic Harvard/Yale football game -- but the story must have seemed a hoary chestnut even in 1926. Obnoxious, self-centered and charismatic guy goes to school and gets put in his place, becoming in the process a caring, self-sacrificing friend; I doubt people in 1926 found much that was really exciting in the last few reels, the predictability factor is high. Still, it starts out very well, and is certainly deserving of being remembered, if not praised to the heavens. Maybe most of the previous 350 voters are mostly Harvard men...