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A silent-era star turn for the Yale Bowl

If you’re looking for a movie to watch this weekend—and if, let’s say, you’re a completist when it comes to depictions of Mother Yale on the silver screen—you can click right over to the National Film Preservation Foundation’s website, where the 1928 silent film Hold ’Em Yale is available for streaming, and absolutely free.

We were altered to this opportunity by documentary filmmaker Tom Davenport ’61, who happened on the film while looking at the foundation’s website. Davenport runs a film website of his own called Folkstreams, which we wrote about a while back.

Hold ’Em Yale (not to be confused with a 1935 talking picture by the same name based on a Damon Runyon story) is the story of Jaime Montez, an Argentine playboy who is reluctant to accept his offer of admission from Yale (“I know too much already,” he tells his father) until he meets Helen Bradbury, a young woman from New Haven traveling in the Argentine with her Yale professor father. He follows her to Yale and sets out to impress her by becoming a boxing champion and then a football star. A monkey, a bulldog, a bumbling police detective, a racy English novel, and a golddigging hussy are also involved.

I’ll avoid spoiling it for you (though in all honesty I don’t think this movie can be further spoiled), but the climax of the 71-minute comedy takes place in a football game against Princeton at the Yale Bowl, which is featured in actual footage intercut with close-ups done on a soundstage. For a wistful Old Blue, seeing the Bowl chock full of screaming fans is the highlight of Hold ’Em Yale.

The NFPF entry for the film reports that “Yale University plans a screening of the new print for Hold ’Em Yale on Friday, November 14, a week before the 100th anniversary of the Yale Bowl. Donald Sosin will contribute the music.” We’ll keep you posted as we get details of that event. In the meantime, be warned that the streaming version has no music, so you might want to consider inviting over a pianist who is gifted at improvisation.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Hold 'Em Yale, football, movies, Yale Bowl
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