Princeton’s last class film: Freddie Fox’ Class of 1939

Although we have a fairly good idea about the class films of the 1920s, there is virtually no information about the class films of the 1930s. The exception is the film of the Class of 1939. That is probably not an accident: it was the class of previously featured Frederic Fox ’39, who was the first and only keeper of Princetoniana from 1976 until his untimely death in 1981. The 16mm film in the archives turned out not to be the two hour long film that was announced in the Daily Princetonian on May 1938, and it sadly also lacks the sound that was supposed to have been a major innovation. How much the ultimate film ‘shattered precedents’ by depicting ‘intimacies during campus years’ as the Prince announced in March 1938, we may never know. But one thing is clear: the Class of 1939 had a lot of fun that included women and beer.

 

The footage is in chronological order, starting with freshmen football practice during days, nights, and in the snow. After this, athletics (always emphasized in previous class films) get very little attention: only football and rowing are featured without any identifications, other than a Yale-Princeton game (6:49). The freshmen scenes continue with footage about the Veterans of Future Wars (VFW) (1:50), founded in March 1936 by members of the Class of 1936 and 1937, which became one of the most famous college pranks in the country. The footage is part of a newsreel of March of the Times, which can be viewed online (with sound!). The three “likely pieces of cannon fodder” (shown at 2:19 in the chairs), who came up with the idea, are  Lewis J. Gorin ’36, “National Commander” (middle), Urban Rushton ’36 (left), and probably Richard Waters ’36 (right). According to 1939’s class history in the Nassau Herald, it was the “main event” of the second term that year, and the movement received the freshmen’s “whole-hearted backing.” The records of the Veterans of Future Wars are kept in the University Archives.

FoxHayesx.jpgThe Triangle Club gets quite some attention in the class film, which is understandable: Fred Fox ’39, Mark Hayes ’39 and Sanders (“Sandy”) Maxwell ’39 were involved in three productions, the first two as actors (Hayes played Mandy Magnum in previously featured Take it Away) while Maxwell contributed music. The footage shows scenes from Fol-de-Rol, Triangle’s production for 1937-1938, including chorines dancing (7:20) and Mark Hayes singing with Fred Fox, who had a leading roll as King Charles II (8:33). It is not possible to determine if the party scene with whiskey and bear that follows is related (8:43). Triangle’s 50th anniversary production Once Over Lightly, in which Hayes and Fox both played leading roles (Sandy Maxwell, Triangle’s director, contributed most of the music), is featured at 16:18. It is not known who the man and woman are who are presented with a gift by Fred Fox at 16:32.
The footage following the first Triangle show is thought to capture the Junior Prom on March 18; 1938, with music by the swing band of trumpeter Larry Clinton (11:14). The prom was attended by 606 girls (all listed by name in the Daily Prince). promcrasherx.jpgFunnily enough, the one junior student who is shown alone among the dancing couples is Fred Fox (at 10:49 with bow tie and glasses), who was voted ‘most likely bachelor’ in his senior year. In an article in the Prince 35 years later, Fox explains that he probably got the vote because he never had a date until his senior year, when he shared one with his roommate. More scenes with girls are shown at 5:37 (presumably watching a rowing regatta), as well as at 11:52 and  at the senior house parties (21:51).
Remaining footage shown must have been shot at the ROTC training camp at Madison Barracks, NY, in the summer of 1938, at the end of the Junior year (13:10). SandyMaxwellx.jpgSimilar footage is featured in our previous blog, which may even have been shot on the same occasion. The footage at 11:59 shows J.C. Hurdman ’39 at the microphone and Sandy Maxwell at the piano during a WTNJ radio broadcast of “Princeton On The Air,” featured in the Prince. The film ends with brief footage of the Commencement.

It is not known why the class film ended up in the University Archives without sound. The original idea to have a two-hour film with sound seems to have been too ambitious: on June 7, 1939 the Prince announced that the senior class film was delayed by audio editing. The final result, to be premiered at the Class’ first reunion, would only be 1000 feet long, due to the extensive costs of the sound track. The Prince‘s description of the final film, which would also include some added campus scenes in color, is very different than the footage that is featured here. What happened? Did the sound track get lost? Or could this be the footage that was excluded from in the final film? If anybody could explain the mystery, we would love to hear it!

This 16mm silent film is part of the University Archives’ Historical Audiovisual Collection (item no. 0199)

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