Cast & Crew
Noah Beery Jr.
After the Zeta Fraternity at Quinceton University publicizes their musical show, in which all the young men are impersonating chorus girls, Mar Brynn Horticultural School for Girls publicist Hap Holden tries to convince university president Matilda Collinge, that she needs a similar publicity stunt to draw more students to her school. Matilda is appalled by the undignified fraternity show, but urged on by her niece Virginia, she agrees to give away scholarships to twelve beauty queens with horticultural titles, such as "The Tomato Queen" and "The Pumpkin Queen," and call them "the girls most likely to succeed." As a way of drawing attention to the scheme, Virginia writes an article for the Quinceton paper in which she calls the Zeta Fraternity the "boys least likely to succeed." After announcing that the Zeta men have been barred from Mar Brynn, she then calls for festival queens to apply for the scholarships. Offended by the article, the fraternity decides to draw lots to send one of them to apply for the scholarship. Wrestling champion Bob Sheppard is tricked into winning, and reluctantly submits a photograph of himself dressed as "Bobbie DeWolfe--Queen of the Flowers." Bob wins a scholarship and reluctantly boards the special train headed for the university, where he is to fulfill his fraternity's wish to humiliate Matilda. Once at Mar Brynn, Bob, dressed as "Bobbie," gets a room to himself because Matilda assumes that his hoarse voice is due to illness. After he accidentally sends his own clothes down the laundry chute, he secretly steals them back from the laundry woman, who thinks the place is haunted and quits. Bob falls in love at first sight with Virginia, who introduces herself to him because they were supposed to have been roommates. Virginia invites "Bobbie" to a secret sing-along outside the chapel that night, and Bob goes dressed as himself and hides in a nearby corridor. While there, he accidentally pulls on the chapel bell rope, then is afraid to let go because the ringing bell would awaken the university. Introducing himself as a friend of "Bobbie," Bob tricks Virginia into holding the bell rope and kisses her. Bob later calls his fraternity brothers intending to cancel their ruse because he has fallen in love with Virginia. As he hangs up the phone, Virginia comes into the room and when she sees "Bobbie's" dress on a chair, she assumes that Bob is double-dating. Later, one of the new students, Bunny, comes down with the measles and the entire college is placed in quarantine. Matilda and Holden lose heart because they believe this means they will have to cancel the musical they have planned, which Bob is directing. Bob suggests that they perform inside the greenhouse, while the guests observe from outside. Slinky and Tiny, two farmer fraternity boys from a nearby university, are sent by Bob's fraternity to roughhouse him into sticking with their plan, but fail to identify him because they only see him when he is dressed as "Bobbie." On the day of the show, Bob walks through the hothouse and nearly loses his wig when it catches on a plant. Virginia sees this and is relieved because she now knows that Bob and "Bobbie" are the same person. Holden and Matilda, however, are furious that they have been duped, but are too busy to do anything about it because they are chasing Bunny, who has escaped quarantine. Slinky and Tiny at last recognize Bob, but he eludes them and dresses Bunny in "Bobbie's" costume. Slinky and Tiny capture Bunny, and Bob confesses to Virginia. The show goes successfully, and Bob pays tribute to the fraternity by having the Mar Brynn girls spell out "Zeta" Busby Berkeley-style at the end. A picture of the stunt is published in the newspapers, and Bob gets his girl after all.
Noah Beery Jr.
Alan Hale Jr.
Joe Brown Jr.
Carlyle Blackwell Jr.
Charles D. Hall
Lloyd B. Norlin
Hal Roach Jr.
Walter G. Samuels
W. L. Stevens
Opening with the title card "Any similarity to actual college life depicted in this film is purely coincidental," All-American Co-Ed tells the fanciful tale of an all-male college whose cross-dressing frat boys decide to get back at the uppity females at Mar Brynn women's college by sending one of their best female impersonators (Downs) there to win a major scholarship. When love for a pretty co-ed (Langford) blunts his purpose, his brothers in drag follow him, leading to a big musical finale.
One of Hal Roach, Jr.'s "streamlined features," All-American Co-Ed was intended to provide a short, snappy bottom half for double bills. In the leads he cast radio singing star Langford and former "Our Gang" star Downs, both of whom had strong followings as musical performers. Although most of Langford's screen musicals were minor league, she had introduced such standards in them as "I'm in the Mood for Love" (her theme song) and "You Are My Lucky Star." Downs had outgrown the Our Gang comedies before the coming of sound, but then had carved a niche as a singing, dancing college boy in films like Pigskin Parade (1936). In supporting roles Roach cast future television stars Noah Beery, Jr. (The Rockford Files) and Alan Hale, Jr. (Gilligan's Island) and, in an unbilled bit, future film noir queen Marie Windsor (best known for 1956's The Killing).
Roach assigned choreographer LeRoy Prinz to make his directing debut, which may not have been a stretch since the film's four musical numbers comprise a quarter of its 48-minute running time. Prinz's homosexuality (during the war, he once quipped about doing his bit for "Aunt Sam") rarely kept him from finding work, though it's hard not to speculate about its influence on All-American Co-Ed, one of the most sexually confused films in Hollywood history. It all starts with the name of the men's college, Quinceton, a queenly play on Princeton. Mar Brynn's headmistress (Esther Dale) has a fondness for checking the bosoms of one of her students and, when faced with a photo of a girl holding a dazzling array of vegetables, can't resist commenting on the woman's "tomatoes." The college girls are introduced singing a love song, apparently to each other. And even though the prevalence of shoulder pads in '40s female fashions would seem to provide the perfect disguise for the male cast's broader shoulders, Downs and his frat fellows are some of the screen's least convincing female impersonators.
For all that (and some embarrassing racial stereotypes), Prinz's musical staging keeps things moving along and Roach's commitment to low-budget films made with quality provides for solid production elements (and a surprisingly well-preserved print). All-American Co-Ed even managed to snag two Oscar® nominations for Best Song ("Out of the Silence") and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. Nevertheless, a B film with no songs on the hit parade, All-American Co-Ed was far from a frontrunner. It would lose the former award to "The Last Time I Saw Paris" in MGM's Lady Be Good and the latter to Disney's Dumbo.
Of special interest for silent-film buffs is a late career performance by silent screen clown Langdon as an ambitious press agent. The comic's childish character had made him one of the biggest stars of the late silent era. Ego had brought his stardom to an end. Thinking he was solely responsible for his success, he fired Frank Capra, the writer-director who had helped shape his screen image. After years of lackluster shorts, he was beginning to regain some ground as a comedy writer for Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, and as a character actor in films such as All-American Co-Ed, but he died only three years later at the age of 60.
Producer-Director: LeRoy Prinz
Screenplay: Cortland Fitzsimmons, Kenneth Higgins & LeRoy Prinz
From an original story by Hal Roach, Jr.
Cinematography: Robert Pittack
Art Direction: Charles D. Hall
Music: Edward Ward
CAST: Frances Langford (Virginia), Johnny Downs (Bob Sheppard/Bobbie De Wolfe), Marjorie Woodworth (Bunny), Noah Beery, Jr. (Slinky), Esther Dale (Matilda Collinge), Harry Langdon (Hap Holden), Alan Hale, Jr. (Tiny), Marie Windsor (Carrot Queen).
by Frank Miller
The working titles of this film were Campus Rhythm and All-American Girl. The film opens with the following written statement: "Any similarity to actual college life depicted in this picture is purely coincidental." According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Eugene Conrad developed the original idea for the story, but his contribution to the final film has not been confirmed. The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (Edward Ward); and Best Song for "Out of the Silence," music and lyrics by Lloyd B. Norlin. All-American Co-Ed was one of Hal Roach's "streamlined features," a series of short comedies intended to fill the second half of a double bill. The first streamlined feature was the 1941 film Tanks a Million (see below).