Institution: University of South Carolina Moving Image Research Collections
Collection: Fox Movietone News Collection
Running time: 03m58s13ms
Source film: 35mm; Nitrate; B&W; Negative; 300 feet
Video quality: Good
Camera: Frank Lamb
While attending a liberal state university in the early 2000s, it was not uncommon to see students or faculty bringing their dogs around campus. (I never had the distinct pleasure of having one in a class I attended, but I would have welcomed it). In this silent footage shot by cameraman Frank Lamb, we see a different sort of animal being paraded around the campus of Georgia Tech: a small bear named Bruin, a gift to football player Jack “Stumpy” Thompson following GT’s 1929 Rose Bowl win over California.
The film begins and we see Thompson — wearing a varsity letter sweater with his hair parted down the middle — dragging a hesitant bear by leash from his house to the sidewalk, down the street, and eventually to campus in consecutive shots. (This bear really didn’t want to attend classes). Bruin stops to scratch a tree. The pair climbs the stairs to a campus building. They leave a campus building. In between classes, they settle down on the stairs and share a sandwich, and Thompson feeds the animal from what appears to be a baby bottle. Bruin occasionally nuzzles Thompson, who manages a few smiles.
In the rare instances where bystanders share the frame with the film’s subjects, they don’t seem especially affected by the animal’s presence. (One exception: a couple of area adolescents appear terrified and hug a lightpost as Thompson leads Bruin down a set of stairs). Due to unknown restrictions, Lamb was only able to shoot exterior footage. That the administration allowed a bear in their buildings but not a cameraman seems a tad mysterious.
Viewers hoping for nature-run-amok or the high comedy of a bear seated at a desk with his attention cast on a biology professor will be disappointed. This is four minutes of a bear being led by chain around a barren wintertime campus. The film is unique given that a live bear would never be allowed to attend college classes these days, due to the astronomical cost of higher education and the proliferation of bear allergies.