Too Busy to Work
- 1h 16min
A depression-era tramp named Jubilo goes looking for the wife that left him. While on his journey, he meets an assortment of characters.A depression-era tramp named Jubilo goes looking for the wife that left him. While on his journey, he meets an assortment of characters.A depression-era tramp named Jubilo goes looking for the wife that left him. While on his journey, he meets an assortment of characters.
Our central character is Jubilo, a middle-aged hobo with no fixed address, no prospects, and a decided aversion to work. For reasons that are initially unclear he seeks a judge named Hardy (NOT Lewis Stone!), a prosperous man running for high office who Jubilo blames for his lowly condition. He travels to Hardy's town and gets a job at the judge's home as a hired hand. Aside from his antagonistic relationship with the hired man already employed there, Jubilo manages to charm everyone else, especially the judge's pretty stepdaughter, Rose (Marian Nixon). Eventually we learn that years earlier, when Jubilo was away at war, Hardy stole his wife and daughter away. The wife has since died, and daughter Rose doesn't recognize her true father. After various complications involving Rose's fiancée, who is also her step-brother (young Dick Powell in a non-singing role), and a dramatic confrontation with the judge, Jubilo resolves his unfinished business with the Hardy family and moves on.
One reason I prefer the silent version of this material is that the story was much simpler there. Too Busy to Work is, well, a little too busy: over-plotted that is, with a lot of backstory concerning events which took place long before the action begins. We hear about these events, but have to fill in some significant info ourselves, which strikes me as a drawback. But this film is really more about character and atmosphere than plot. There are moments of low-key charm along the way, as well as a mildly amusing sequence when Rose attempts to teach Jubilo how to drive a car, although the humor is undercut by rather obvious rear-screen projection effects.
Rogers is a performer who requires a bit of adjustment for some viewers, as he tends to mumble and throw away his lines. He's very offhand, seemingly unfocused, although I believe he knew exactly what he was doing. At any rate, once you adapt to this star's approach he can be quite appealing; audiences of his era certainly thought so! Too Busy to Work, while not the best movie he ever made, is a pretty good example of a typical Will Rogers vehicle. If you enjoy this one, you might want to try some of the others, such as Life Begins at 40 or Doctor Bull. You may find that the Will Rogers style grows on you.
- May 20, 2018