July 17, 2011


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If you’ve never heard of this movie, I’m not surprised. It’s a legendary mess and it deserves all the scorn it’s received and then some. I couldn’t explain what’s happening if I tried. Suffice it to say there’s hippies and gangsters and Groucho Marx is playing God and the ending credits are sung and you need a lot drugs for this to make any sense. Jackie Gleason is wealthy and is sending his hippie daughter to Vassar.  Ultimately it’s another film that mocks the 1960s counterculture (see Take Her, She’s Mine, for a more sedate entry of that type.)

More Dead Than Alive
A minor Western with ex-convict Clint Walker trying to find work and purpose after being released from jail. He runs across Anne Francis, an artist, and romance begins to bloom as we learn a bit about her.

This is a fairly bloated screen musical about Gertrude Lawrence, starring Julie Andrews at the height of her career. In the climactic number, she sings “The Saga of Jenny,” a number Lawrence made famous from the Weill/Gershwin musical Lady in the Dark—which has a great lyric that references Vassar. (This song also appears in the 1944 movie of Lady in the Dark, and the 1954 television production.) The scene from the show is set in a dream sequence of a trial conducted by a circus.

The Swimmer
A rather maudlin entry, as a depressed Burt Lancaster reminisces about an old affair with his former, embittered mistress. Vassar as character point, but it’s a bit throwaway, not as clear what it’s supposed to signify.

The French Connection
This doesn’t really count, strictly, but it’s such a great Poughkeepsie line, it’s hard not to include.

Vassar jokes continue unabated in ’70s sitcoms. This episode from series about a domesticated witch in suburbia is late in the run of the series. The lead, Elizabeth Montgomery, also played her character’s sister, Serena, who was a little edgier and more sexually forward. It’s a cute reference and not the usual sort of joke.

Thanks to Lisa Bell ’89 for the tip.

Hawaii Five-O
More iconic 70s television, and a nice pairing with Gunsmoke regarding how to finance going to Vassar. Joyce van Patten, Andy Griffith and their daughter are a family of grifters who just made a big score...

Thanks to Richard Dorn and his love of 70s television for finding this.

Our earliest-set clip, in the 1870s, this Western still has the record for the most episodes of a TV show (not counting soaps). Our scene, from the 19th season, has a wealthy rancher giving his wife some good news about their daughter coming home from Vassar. This is especially delightful because of some choice comments about the expense. (A later scene has the rancher angry at his daughter, who he sees as turning against him, and he spurns her with some remarks about her new life at school.)  For another crack about Vassar’s expense, see Blossom.

Two entries from this hardboiled '70s cop show. More for the “Vassar cracks the case” files (seriously: why do so many police procedurals have Vassarites as victims and witnesses?), here’s New York’s toughest cop first getting an assist from another intelligent and multilingual Vassar girl, and second making some gentle fun of Detective Crocker's date.

Sanford and Son
A retread of the Day at the Races “men at Vassar” joke but with a couple of twists. For one, this is an African-American themed sitcom (in all this material, I’ve found only three clips with any African-American context) and the joke comes from Japanese-American actor Pat Morita!

Thanks to “explicitsoul5” for identifying the episode.

Here’s Burt Reynolds being a sexist and obnoxious cop/investigator/renegade working outside the law. That doesn’t really narrow down which of his movies this is, I suppose. Vassar as character point for a woman who can handle herself. (See Moonraker for a similar sort of joke.)

The Waltons
The show was set in the 1930s in rural, mountain Virginia. John Boy meets an old friend, who’s come home from college “up North.” She’s a little wild— and Vassar equestrians in particular might like this one. Vassar as character point, for a free-spirited and demonstrative woman.

Thanks to Toby O’Brien for the tip.

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