A Yank at Oxford


1h 40m 1938
A Yank at Oxford

Brief Synopsis

A cocky American student runs into trouble when he transfers to the famed British college.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
Feb 18, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

Dan Sheridan has spent so much time and money helping his son Lee in his collegiate athletic career that he is in danger of losing his small town newspaper. When Dean Williams of Lakedale State College offers Lee a Rhodes Scholarship to Cardinal College at Oxford, Lee is overjoyed, but turns it down so that he can help repay his father. Dan gets the badly needed money from banker Ben Dalton, however, and Lee is on his way, cheered on by his local friends and fans. After arriving in England, Lee makes such a fool of himself bragging about his athletic triumphs that Paul Beaumont and his friends Wavertree and Ramsey trick him into leaving his train before Oxford to avoid a non-existent reception committee at the station. This introduction to Oxford makes him want to leave, but Scatters, his "scout," convinces him to stay on. Soon he starts to date Beaumont's sister Molly, study and win track meets. When he is told to rest rather than enter a relay race, Lee pushes Paul aside at the last moment and wins, but in retaliation for unsportsmanlike conduct, the entire college takes his pants at a hazing. Blaming Paul, Lee looks for him at a tavern. In a scuffle, Paul is blamed for hitting the dean of Cardinal, even though Lee threw the punch. Because Wavertree thinks that he saw Paul do it, Paul is scorned by his friends when he says that Lee did it. Though slightly ashamed of himself, Lee lets Paul take the blame and becomes the new class favorite. Lee tries to make amends with Paul and to defend him to Molly, but Paul will not accept his overtures. One night, however, Lee is able to do Paul a favor when he hides Elsa Craddock, a married woman with whom Paul has been having a clandestine affair, in his own room. Rather than expose Paul, Lee accepts the blame when Tom Craddock arrives, and is therefore sent down by the dean. Though saddened to leave Oxford, Lee is overjoyed at the parade that his fellow students offer him until he sees his father, who has come to England to watch the big crew race against Cambridge. Dan knows that Lee loves Molly too much to be seeing another woman and so, with the help of Elsa, Molly and Wavertree, Lee is reinstated. Elsa tells the dean that Lee was merely being a gentleman and that it was Wavertree whom she was seeing. Wavertree, who wants to be sent down to gain his rich uncle's approval, is overjoyed, and Paul and Lee are reconciled in time to win the big race together with the happy Molly and Dan cheering them on.

Photo Collections

A Yank at Oxford - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from MGM's A Yank at Oxford (1938), starring Robert Taylor, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Vivien Leigh.
A Yank at Oxford - Publicity Stills
Here are a few stills taken to help publicize MGM's A Yank at Oxford (1938), starring Robert Taylor and Maureen O'Sullivan. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
Feb 18, 1938
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
Great Britain and United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Articles

A Yank at Oxford


Robert Taylor's roles in films such as Magnificent Obsession (1935) and Camille (1937) established him as a romantic lead. While female audiences loved him in these roles, men found him too weak. According to Lawrence J. Quirk in The Films of Robert Taylor, MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer gave Taylor the lead role in A Yank at Oxford (1938) "in an effort to counteract his 'pretty boy' image which had threatened his stardom with its constant implications that he was 'soft,' 'a ladies' darling,' and possibly 'effeminate.'" In A Yank at Oxford, Taylor plays Lee Sheridan, a brash American college student studying at Oxford. At first, Sheridan's arrogance clashes with his classmates, but he eventually earns their trust. Maureen O'Sullivan plays his love interest and Vivien Leigh has a small role as a flirtatious English woman.

Mayer's intention to toughen Taylor's image with this film worked. In addition to A Yank at Oxford being a box office success, it earned Taylor a new respect with audiences and the press. Quirk describes how Taylor managed the turnaround, "He rows, he races, he wears brief track suits which demonstrate to everyone's final satisfaction that he has a good mat of hair on his chest, and he even gets into fist fights during the course of the film." Taylor's character is on the school's rowing team, so the actor frequently had to shoot scenes in cold water. In order to prepare for the scenes, Taylor would soak in a tub filled with ice every morning. He even got so involved in preparing for the rowing that he would challenge the professional rowing teams.

Mayer was reluctant to cast the then unknown Vivien Leigh in the part of Elsa Craddock. Producer Michael Balcon persuaded Mayer to keep her, pointing out she was already living in England and it would cost a great deal to bring someone else over from Hollywood. According to Hugo Vickers in Vivien Leigh, Leigh's friend, "actress Eve Phillips, believed that, in her playing Elsa Craddock in A Yank at Oxford, Vivien was in effect doing a screen test for Scarlett, playing her 'as saucy and sexual, like an imperious modern-day Cleopatra,' a kind of 'English version of Scarlett O'Hara.'"

A Yank at Oxford was MGM's first British production. Louis B. Mayer wanted to ensure that everyone knew he was still in charge, so he often visited the set giving out orders. He even got into a fight with producer Michael Balcon within earshot of Maureen O'Sullivan and Vivien Leigh and Balcon eventually resigned.

Several writers worked on the script for A Yank at Oxford, including author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Although he was not credited, Fitzgerald spent three weeks touching up the script and adding dialogue. A sequel, A Yank at Eton, was made in 1942 with Mickey Rooney. Then in 1984 Rob Lowe starred in a remake entitled Oxford Blues.

Director: Jack Conway
Producer: Michael Balcon
Screenplay: Malcolm Stuart Boylan, Walter Ferris, Leon Gordon, George Oppenheimer, F. Scott Fitzgerald (uncredited)
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Music: Hubert Bath, Edward Ward
Cast: Robert Taylor (Lee Sheridan), Lionel Barrymore (Dan Sheridan), Maureen O'Sullivan (Molly Beaumont), Vivien Leigh (Elsa Craddock), Edmund Gwenn (Dean of Cardinal College). BW-103m. Closed captioning.

by Deborah Looney

A Yank At Oxford

A Yank at Oxford

Robert Taylor's roles in films such as Magnificent Obsession (1935) and Camille (1937) established him as a romantic lead. While female audiences loved him in these roles, men found him too weak. According to Lawrence J. Quirk in The Films of Robert Taylor, MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer gave Taylor the lead role in A Yank at Oxford (1938) "in an effort to counteract his 'pretty boy' image which had threatened his stardom with its constant implications that he was 'soft,' 'a ladies' darling,' and possibly 'effeminate.'" In A Yank at Oxford, Taylor plays Lee Sheridan, a brash American college student studying at Oxford. At first, Sheridan's arrogance clashes with his classmates, but he eventually earns their trust. Maureen O'Sullivan plays his love interest and Vivien Leigh has a small role as a flirtatious English woman. Mayer's intention to toughen Taylor's image with this film worked. In addition to A Yank at Oxford being a box office success, it earned Taylor a new respect with audiences and the press. Quirk describes how Taylor managed the turnaround, "He rows, he races, he wears brief track suits which demonstrate to everyone's final satisfaction that he has a good mat of hair on his chest, and he even gets into fist fights during the course of the film." Taylor's character is on the school's rowing team, so the actor frequently had to shoot scenes in cold water. In order to prepare for the scenes, Taylor would soak in a tub filled with ice every morning. He even got so involved in preparing for the rowing that he would challenge the professional rowing teams. Mayer was reluctant to cast the then unknown Vivien Leigh in the part of Elsa Craddock. Producer Michael Balcon persuaded Mayer to keep her, pointing out she was already living in England and it would cost a great deal to bring someone else over from Hollywood. According to Hugo Vickers in Vivien Leigh, Leigh's friend, "actress Eve Phillips, believed that, in her playing Elsa Craddock in A Yank at Oxford, Vivien was in effect doing a screen test for Scarlett, playing her 'as saucy and sexual, like an imperious modern-day Cleopatra,' a kind of 'English version of Scarlett O'Hara.'" A Yank at Oxford was MGM's first British production. Louis B. Mayer wanted to ensure that everyone knew he was still in charge, so he often visited the set giving out orders. He even got into a fight with producer Michael Balcon within earshot of Maureen O'Sullivan and Vivien Leigh and Balcon eventually resigned. Several writers worked on the script for A Yank at Oxford, including author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Although he was not credited, Fitzgerald spent three weeks touching up the script and adding dialogue. A sequel, A Yank at Eton, was made in 1942 with Mickey Rooney. Then in 1984 Rob Lowe starred in a remake entitled Oxford Blues. Director: Jack Conway Producer: Michael Balcon Screenplay: Malcolm Stuart Boylan, Walter Ferris, Leon Gordon, George Oppenheimer, F. Scott Fitzgerald (uncredited) Cinematography: Harold Rosson Music: Hubert Bath, Edward Ward Cast: Robert Taylor (Lee Sheridan), Lionel Barrymore (Dan Sheridan), Maureen O'Sullivan (Molly Beaumont), Vivien Leigh (Elsa Craddock), Edmund Gwenn (Dean of Cardinal College). BW-103m. Closed captioning. by Deborah Looney

A Yank at Oxford - A Yank at Oxford


In the mid-1930's, quotas imposed by the British government on the number of foreign films that could be shown in the United Kingdom had American film companies looking for ways to get their product into the country. MGM decided to produce a series of "prestige pictures" in Great Britain, using MGM know-how and a combination of British and American talent.

Englishman Michael Balcon was chosen to head MGM's U.K. studio, and in the summer of 1937, shooting began on their first feature, A Yank at Oxford (1938), with Balcon producing and directing. It's the story of a cocky midwestern college athlete (Robert Taylor) who learns about loyalty and school spirit when he goes to Oxford as an exchange student.

For the stunningly handsome Taylor, who'd been playing swoony romantic leads in films like Camille (1936), it was an opportunity to change a somewhat sissy image by playing a more masculine hero. Taylor trained hard for the part, soaking in tubs of ice before the rowing sequences, which were filmed in cold water. He showed off his buff body and hairy chest in skimpy athletic wear. He challenged professional athletes. MGM head Louis B. Mayer was pleased. "Now you are a man, Bob," he told Taylor.

The leading lady, Irish actress Maureen O'Sullivan, enjoyed a reunion with her convent school friend Vivien Leigh, who had a small part. Leigh, a year before she won the role of Scarlett O'Hara, was still a relative unknown. Mayer didn't want her for the part in A Yank at Oxford, until the canny Balcon pointed out that since Leigh was English, the studio wouldn't have to pay her travel expenses.

Mayer was determined to show everyone who was boss, and was constantly on the set. He berated Balcon within earshot of O'Sullivan and Leigh, and Balcon soon resigned. American Jack Conway took over as director, though Balcon retained the producer credit. Many writers worked on the film, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who provided some clever dialogue, but did not receive a screen credit.

A Yank at Oxford was a big hit, and MGM's British production unit was successfully launched. It would take a world war to end it.

Director: Jack Conway
Producer: Michael Balcon
Screenplay: Malcom Stuart Boylan, Walter Ferris, George Oppenheimer; original story by Leon Gordon, Sidney Gilliatt, Michael Hogan; based on an idea by John Monk Saunders. Uncredited writers include F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Editors: Margaret Booth, Charles Freund
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Music: Hubert Bath, Edmund Gordon
Cast: Robert Taylor (Lee Sheridan), Lionel Barrymore (Dan Sheridan), Maureen O'Sullivan (Molly Beaumont), Vivien Leigh (Elsa Craddock), Edmund Gwen (Dean of Cardinal College), Griffith Jones (Paul Beaumont)
BW-103m. Closed captioning.

by Margarita Landazuri

A Yank at Oxford - A Yank at Oxford

In the mid-1930's, quotas imposed by the British government on the number of foreign films that could be shown in the United Kingdom had American film companies looking for ways to get their product into the country. MGM decided to produce a series of "prestige pictures" in Great Britain, using MGM know-how and a combination of British and American talent. Englishman Michael Balcon was chosen to head MGM's U.K. studio, and in the summer of 1937, shooting began on their first feature, A Yank at Oxford (1938), with Balcon producing and directing. It's the story of a cocky midwestern college athlete (Robert Taylor) who learns about loyalty and school spirit when he goes to Oxford as an exchange student. For the stunningly handsome Taylor, who'd been playing swoony romantic leads in films like Camille (1936), it was an opportunity to change a somewhat sissy image by playing a more masculine hero. Taylor trained hard for the part, soaking in tubs of ice before the rowing sequences, which were filmed in cold water. He showed off his buff body and hairy chest in skimpy athletic wear. He challenged professional athletes. MGM head Louis B. Mayer was pleased. "Now you are a man, Bob," he told Taylor. The leading lady, Irish actress Maureen O'Sullivan, enjoyed a reunion with her convent school friend Vivien Leigh, who had a small part. Leigh, a year before she won the role of Scarlett O'Hara, was still a relative unknown. Mayer didn't want her for the part in A Yank at Oxford, until the canny Balcon pointed out that since Leigh was English, the studio wouldn't have to pay her travel expenses. Mayer was determined to show everyone who was boss, and was constantly on the set. He berated Balcon within earshot of O'Sullivan and Leigh, and Balcon soon resigned. American Jack Conway took over as director, though Balcon retained the producer credit. Many writers worked on the film, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who provided some clever dialogue, but did not receive a screen credit. A Yank at Oxford was a big hit, and MGM's British production unit was successfully launched. It would take a world war to end it. Director: Jack Conway Producer: Michael Balcon Screenplay: Malcom Stuart Boylan, Walter Ferris, George Oppenheimer; original story by Leon Gordon, Sidney Gilliatt, Michael Hogan; based on an idea by John Monk Saunders. Uncredited writers include F. Scott Fitzgerald. Editors: Margaret Booth, Charles Freund Cinematography: Harold Rosson Music: Hubert Bath, Edmund Gordon Cast: Robert Taylor (Lee Sheridan), Lionel Barrymore (Dan Sheridan), Maureen O'Sullivan (Molly Beaumont), Vivien Leigh (Elsa Craddock), Edmund Gwen (Dean of Cardinal College), Griffith Jones (Paul Beaumont) BW-103m. Closed captioning. by Margarita Landazuri

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

This was the first of four films made by M-G-M at their British studios in Denham, England and, according to a news item in Motion Picture Daily, it cost $900,000 to make. Reviews note that the production was not allowed to film any sequences at Oxford University itself and had to use studio streets and sets to represent it. An ad in Hollywood Reporter on February 24, 1938 notes that portions of the film were shot on location at Denham Court, Buckinghamshire, England. Some of the picture was also shot at M-G-M's main studio in Culver City, CA. According to a pre-production news item in Hollywood Reporter, Elliott Morgan, who was an Oxford student, was to act as technical advisor for the film. A news item in Daily Variety notes that some rewrites were needed on the script to accommodate English audiences; however, some unidentified contemporary British reviews contained in the BFI Library file on the film expressed the opinion that it still presented an unrealistic picture of English university life. An article in Life magazine on the film notes that M-G-M was trying to give popular star Robert Taylor a less "pretty boy" image by including considerable footage in the film illustrating his athletic abilities and by releasing publicity shots of him working out in preparation for his role. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, when Taylor's boat landed in England shortly before the start of the picture, thousands of female British fans crowded the docks to greet him. Later news items noted that a continual deluge of publicity about Taylor started to "backfire" in England by the time the film started production, however.
       When the picture had its London premiere at the Empire Theatre, a direct broadcast was made for M-G-M's Good News radio program. The film's stars, plus M-G-M head Louis B. Mayer were on the broadcast, as was Gilbert Russell, a popular radio personality known in England as Val Rosing. The broadcast was heard at 9:00 p.m. in New York and at 3:00 a.m. in London, according to the news item. According to a modern source, Mayer's anger that an "unknown" actress, Vivien Leigh, was cast in the second female lead increased a rift between himself and the film's producer, Michael Balcon, who was also the head of production at M-G-M British. The rift soon resulted in Balcon's resignation and the appointment of Ben Goetz to the post. M-G-M recreated the theme of A Yank at Oxford for its 1942 Mickey Rooney film, A Yank at Eton. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy satirized its title in 1940 in the Hal Roach production of A Chump at Oxford. When the 1984 M-G-M/UA film Oxford Blues, directed by Robert Boris and starring Rob Lowe, was released, it was called a remake of A Yank at Oxford, but its plot bears only a vague resemblance to the 1938 film. An earlier M-G-M film, Huddle (1932, ), contained an incident within the story that is very similar to the part of A Yank at Oxford involving a woman sneaking into a man's quarters and another person covering for him, but the later film does not credit any of the screenwriters of the earlier film, or the author of the original novel on which it was based.