I don’t know about anyone else, but I used to look through my parents’ high school yearbooks and think how old everyone looked. Not like teenagers exactly but full-fledged adults. Must have been the clothes. At least they were actual teenagers in high school, unlike the cast of the 1946 film, High School Hero. This movie…well, it’s a movie.
It all opens with (what else?) a football game between rival high schools Whitney and Fairview, the latter of which is beating the former sixty-seven to zero, and when the clock runs out the jubilant Fairview cheerleaders parade in front of the glum Whitney kids. They have every right to be glum, seeing as Whitney hasn’t beaten Fairview at football in almost thirty years. Even the teachers are ready to give up.
Then we go to the school newspaper office at Whitney, The Town Crier, where editor Betty (Noel Neill) is telling her staff they may have to shut down because they haven’t had a single real news story in ages. Everyone breaks to go chase down something to put in the paper, and then we go to the local soda fountain, where the shop owner has designated a side for Whitney High School students and the other side for Fairview students in an attempt to keep the peace. However, there’s still bleedover. When Fairview jock Jimmy (Jackie Moran) decides to ask Whitney sweetheart Dodi (June Preisser) out, the two factions almost come to fisticuffs.
The poor kids at Whitney just can’t catch a break, because they find out the student performers are going to be replaced by professional musicians at the local bazaar, and after they gave their all in the number they prepared (More on that later. Oh boy). Dodi accuses football star and dance captain Freddie (Freddie Stewart) of having the number cut on purpose and doesn’t listen when Freddie defends himself.
Later on, Dodi realizes her mistake and runs after Freddie at football practice to apologize, leveling the entire football team in the process. Freddie comes up with a grand idea: Disguise Dodi as a member of the football team and let her play in the next game against Fairview. Dodi is less than impressed.
Freddie is a great one for ideas, and after crooning a love song to Dodi at the soda fountain, runs off with his friend, Lee (Warren Mills) to talk bandleader Jan Savitt into playing at the bazaar, and at the club they sit through a truly awful song about horseback riding by the band’s singer, Chi Chi (Lita Baron). The backstage is closed to visitors, though, but Freddie butters up the grumpy manager by warbling a song like the Irish tenor he is.
Gee, this movie has a great plot, doesn’t it? It just keeps the viewer guessing and playing with our emotions.
No. No, actually, it doesn’t, at least not in a good way. That song the Whitney kids were preparing for the bazaar? It’s about a football game between boys in sweater vests and girls in bikinis. The sports announcer raps. The kids rap. And the girls win the game by spraying perfume in the boys’ faces. It’s extra-super cringe-y. The principal is a good sport, though, because after glowering his way through the number he congratulates the kids on their wonderful song and dance. Eeeep.
Of course, the term, “kids” is used extremely loosely here, seeing as the ages of the actors playing the students range from twenty to thirty-nine. Yeah. Thirty-nine. The lines on the guy’s forehead are clearly visible even without 4K or a nice restored print.
Amazingly enough, High School Hero was the third installment in a series of seven films called The Teen Agers, made on the extremely cheap by Monogram Pictures. June Preisser as the biggest star of the, ahem, younger set was the biggest draw, and she was used to promote a tie-in deal the studio had with a clothing company called Koret of California. Other than that, the movie didn’t seem to generate much buzz of any kind, but someone obviously liked the series so new installments kept being made.
Monogram Pictures’ main output was serials such as The Teen Agers’ predecessor The East Side Kids, and the studio was often used as a launching pad for new stars such as Ginger Rogers, as well as filming tons of westerns. Naturally, in the late forties the big push was to create content for television, and serial offenders Monogram Pictures tried really, really hard to get in on the act.
No one bit, though, and the studio folded as an active entity in 1953 and its catalogue has been divided up among several different companies. Actually, “divided” is the wrong word. “Dissipated” is closer to the point, as the fate of Monogram Pictures’ film catalogue is long and confusing, with quite a few films not surviving into the present day or having such tangled rights agreements that they can’t be shown to the public. Monogram’s facilities still exist at their original site, though, although they’ve been modernized over the years and finally taken over by the Church of Scientology. High School Hero is currently owned by Warner Bros., which bought a big chunk of the Monogram library.
Spotty history aside, High School Hero is quite the curiosity and sure to inspire at least a spit-take or two.
High School Hero is available to stream for Prime customers on Amazon (RiffTrax version only. Trust me, it’s better this way.).
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