Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Too Busy to Work (1932)

I'm in the midst of a heavy workweek, and a mellow Will Rogers film was just the thing to enjoy at the end of a busy day.

That movie was TOO BUSY TO WORK (1932), costarring Dick Powell and Marian Nixon.

In TOO BUSY TO WORK Rogers plays Jubilo, a hobo who is searching for his wife and daughter, who disappeared while he was fighting in WWI.

Jubilo ends up at the home of Judge Hardy (Frederick Burton), whom he discovers had married his former wife. She has since passed away, but Jubilo's sweet daughter Rose (Nixon) is very happy living with her stepfather, and she plans to marry the Judge's son Dan (Powell).

In this gentle tale Jubilo never tells his daughter his true identity, but he takes a job around the Hardy home for a few days in order to get to know her -- while avoiding actual work as much as possible! He also helps put right a thorny situation involving Dan, whom he saw inadvertently drive a getaway car after a robbery.

There's not much more to the story; the 76-minute film is more a series of warm and humorous vignettes as Jubilo gets to know the charming young girl he fathered and her equally likeable sweetheart.

I found it interesting that while Jubilo is kind and sentimental, he's far from a perfect person, as he tries hard to keep from working, plays pranks, and fibs easily; indeed, he sizes up the Judge's character against his own and concludes that perhaps his former wife made an understandable decision.

This was just Powell's third film, after BLESSED EVENT (1932) and BIG CITY BLUES (1932). The following year his career took off with a trio of Busby Berkeley musicals, beginning with 42ND STREET (1933).

In 1933 Nixon costarred with Rogers again in John Ford's DOCTOR BULL (1933). I'll be watching that film later this year, as it's one of the films on my list of 10 Classics to see for the first time in 2017.

Nixon married director William Seiter in 1934, and they were married until his passing in 1964. In 1972 she married actor Ben Lyon, widowed when his wife Bebe Daniels passed away. (There's a connection to Powell there, as Daniels was the star of 42ND STREET.) Nixon's daughter, Jessica Seiter Niblo, wrote a somewhat hard-to-find memoir, MOVIETOWN BABY GROWS UP. You can read more about the family in an article by R. Emmet Sweeney at the Streamline blog (formerly TCM's Movie Morlocks).

As for Rogers, he tragically died in a plane crash in Alaska in August 1935. It was a great loss to the film industry, including a young actor Rogers had mentored named Joel McCrea. McCrea invested in his ranch with Rogers' encouragement and lived there for most of his life. As a matter of fact, I'll be making a return visit to the McCrea Ranch the first weekend of April.

TOO BUSY TO WORK was directed by John G. Blystone and filmed by Charles G. Clarke. The cast also includes the immensely likeable Louise Beavers as the Hardy family cook and Charles Middleton as the police chief.

IMDB says that the film's exteriors were filmed in Lone Pine, California. I didn't recognize the locations, which didn't seem to be shot in areas typically used in Lone Pine, and I'd love to know more.

TOO BUSY TO WORK is part of the four-film Will Rogers Collection, Vol. 2. I picked up both volumes from Amazon a couple Christmases ago for about $8 each -- a remarkable deal of roughly $2 per movie. The sets are currently a few dollars more than that at Amazon, but still a great buy.

Previous reviews of Will Rogers films: STATE FAIR (1933), JUDGE PRIEST (1934), and STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND (1935).

2022 Update: I just revisited this film at the TCM Classic Film Festival. What a difference a few years and a big screen makes! I almost instantly recognized the film as being set in Lone Pine, doubtless thanks in part to having spent considerable time in Lone Pine in the last few years. I don't know if the "judge's house" actually existed in Lone Pine or was a set, but Lone Pine Peak was easily recognizable in the background.


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