Campus Rhythm (1943) is a Pathe and Monogram picture that belongs to one of my favorite sub-genres of classic film: the collegiate film. It stars Gale Storm as Joan Abbott, a famous radio performer sponsored by the cereal company Crunchy Wunchy. Joan has been in show business all her life and she's sick of it. She dreams of going to college and experiencing campus life. She's underage and still under the control of her uncle Willy (Douglas Leavitt) who just renewed her contract with manager J.P. Hartman (Herbert Heyes) for another 6 months. Joan runs away and joins Rawley University under the assumed name Susie Smith, a moniker she borrowed from her manager's new secretary.
Even at Rawley she can't escape performing life because music just happens to be very much a part of campus life. She finds herself surrounded by talented people. Buzz O'Hara (Robert Lowery) is the head of the fraternity, leader of the campus band and known prankster. Scoop (Johnny Downs), the editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper and Joan/Susie's new love interest. Scoop is as stiff as a freshly starched shirt and is opposed to anything but serious studies on campus. There is always one of those types in a collegiate movie! There is also Harold (Candy Candido) a humorous voice artist and Babs Marlow (GeGe Pearson) a budding singer. Writers, dancers, singers, voice artists, the campus is full of talent just waiting to be discovered.
Susie is always at risk of being found out as Joan Abbott. Her father and manager are on the search for her but Joan is hard to find under her very common assumed name. They come up with a publicity stunt to encourage college students around the country to find Joan Abbott if she is hiding at their school. Most people don't know what she looks like so it's a fun challenge for the students. Another nation-wide college contest seeks to find the next big band.
How long can Joan hide under assumed name when it seems like everyone is looking for her? Especially when a jealous sorority girl is on to her scheme and will do anything to expose Susie as Joan.
The premise of Campus Rhythm is very similar to that of Dancing Co-Ed (1939) starring Lana Turner. Both feature a performer hiding in a college campus under an assumed name and a nation-wide collegiate publicity stunt. In the case of Campus Rhythm, the protagonist's intentions are always genuine.
The plot can be considered rather weak but that didn't stop me from enjoying this film immensely. I liked it so much I started watching again immediately after my first viewing. There are some great songs including "But Not You", "Swing Your Way Through College" and "You Character". Hollywood seems to love a good yarn about a fake college student or one incognito. The new person dynamic in these cases really shakes things up on campus in a very entertaining way. And what is it with nation-wide collegiate contests? Was this a thing? I'd love to learn more about the collegiate life of early to mid-twentieth century America.
Gale Storm is a delight to watch and she's one of three talents to take note of in this film. There is also Candy Candido who was famous for his ability to effortlessly switch between three different octaves. He was already a well-known radio star, was establishing himself as a voice artist and bass player in film and went on to become a voice actor for animated film. I enjoyed watching radio actress and singer GeGe Pearson who plays campus singer Babs Marlow and performs a few songs in the film.
Also watch for prolific character actor Tom Kennedy who has a small but funny role as a Police Seargant. He's a favorite of mine and I was glad to see a familiar face in the movie.
I wasn't expecting much from Campus Rhythm and was pleasantly surprised. If you love 1940s music, radio culture and collegiate films, this is definitely one to add to your repertoire. It's available on DVD through the MGM Limited Collection. I rented it through ClassicFlix only to discover I had it available to me this whole time through Netflix Instant. Oh well!