Public Domain Theater: The Freshman (& “Felix the Cat Trifles with Time”)

Welcome to Public Domain Theater, your home for the wonderful world of films that have (in the United States, at least) fallen into the public domain, and are free for everyone to see!

Happy New Year, everyone! After the worldwide dumpster fire enema that’s been 2020, I think we’re all, more than ever, looking to the promise of a new year to bring some joy and hope into our lives.

And if you’re a fan of classic cinema, you have twice as many reasons to celebrate, because a new year means a new batch of works entering the public domain! As of yesterday, all creative works released in 1925 have had their copyrights expire, opening up a treasure trove of classic films for free, public viewing!

Among those jewels is our film for this month, Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman, a slapstick comedy about a dorky college student determined to become Big Man On Campus (chiefly by imitating what he’s seen in other movies about college life, with predictably disastrous results).

The film is bursting with terrific gags, along with the amazing physicality and vulnerable performance you expect from Harold Lloyd. What’s more, it’s great fun to see how 1920’s college life could, in some ways, be so quaint and different, while in other ways be shockingly similar to what we have now. We might laugh at the beanies and the old-timey athletic gear, but this bit of satire is as relevant as ever: “Tate University – a large football stadium with a college attached.”

To go with our feature film, we have an animated short that’s also new to the public domain: “Felix the Cat Trifles with Time”, starring Felix the Cat, trifling with time. Specifically, getting Father Time to send him back to the Stone Age so he can try eating giant dinosaur bones … and the cartoon gets more bizarre and madcap from there. One of the greats from silent animation’s biggest star.

So come ring in the new year, won’t you? Doff your freshman beanies, set down Father Time’s magic clock, and give the ol’ college cheer for our wonderful newcomers to the public domain!


Opening Cartoon:

Feature Presentation: