A Yank at Oxford (1938)
Director: Jack Conway
Cast: Robert Taylor, Vivien Leigh, Lionel Barrymore
Synopsis: Lee Sheridan, a young American comes to study at Oxford University, but is instantly disliked by the other students, because of his brash and big-headed attitude.
A Yank at Oxford offers a quaint version of Oxford academia in which days are spent boating on the river or running on the track rather than sitting in a stuffy classroom with a textbook the size of a housebrick; a world in which students wear suits and smoke pipes, and flee for the back door of the pub whenever a professor is seen.
Robert Taylor plays the conceited but likeable ‘Yank’ of the title in this typical ‘fish out of water’ movie that starts strongly before rambling a little as it concentrates on the animosity he encounters from another student (Griffith Jones, giving a solid performance). Taylor’s a little too old for the part, but still has the boyish good-looks that faded so badly in the Forties. A flighty Vivien Leigh and a pretty Maureen O’Sullivan both look young and fresh, and add a little brightness to the fusty old halls of academia.
The movie offers a picture of a pre-World War II world that perhaps never existed, although it would be nice to believe that it did. Either way, it’s a pleasant way to lose yourself from the modern world for 90 minutes.
(Reviewed 12th January 2002)