Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Rewind Review: Those Were the Days ( 1940 )

William Holden displays the good ol' Siwash spirit of horseplay in Paramount Pictures minor wisp of nostalgia Those Were the Days set in the fictional college of Siwash at the turn of the century. 

After getting himself in a scrape that ought to land him six months in jail ( the film proves that collegians were wild hooligans even in 1904 ), Petey Simmons ( Holden ) ardently woos the judge's daughter in order to win favor with her pop ( Vaughn Glaser ) when it comes time for the sentence to be ruled. The hapless youth finds his weasel of a plan backfires when he falls in love with the sparkling lass, played by Bonita Granville. 

Squeaky-voiced Ezra Stone, famous for portraying Henry Aldrich on radio and later directing The Addams Family series, provided ample support to Holden and his hi-jinks. Also cast were Judith Barrett, William Frawley, Richard Denning, and Alan Ladd in a flash one-line part. Those Were the Days aka Good Ol' Siwash was based on the popular Siwash stories written by Knox College alum George Helgeson Fitch.

To promote the film, Paramount's publicity team strapped Jeanne Cagney and William Henry in a 1902 runabout and set them off puttering to a gala hosted by the Los Angeles Horseless Carriage Club.

William Holden started his career at Paramount where he was one of the members of the studio's "Golden Circle" of young players in 1938, along with Susan Hayward, Betty Field, Robert Preston, Patricia Morison, Ellen Drew, Louise Campbell, William Henry, and Evelyn Keyes. Columbia Pictures borrowed Holden for Golden Boy and then returned him to Paramount a star. 

Those Were the Days gave Holden his first star billing and a chance to demonstrate that winsome charisma that would soon launch him to stardom. Alas, that's about all it did. Unlike the splendid A Yank at Oxford ( MGM, 1938 ), the film failed to capture a love for the college nor sympathetic support for its hero. Theodore Reed's direction was sluggish from the start and the script could have used a greater dose of humor and wit. Today, Those Were the Days is forgotten along with good ol' Siwash University. 

This post was originally published on Silver Scenes in July 2014. 

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