Too Busy to Work
Cast & Crew
A tramp, who has acquired the name "Jubilo" from the old plantation song that he likes to sing, hops a train to California after he sees in a newspaper the picture of Judge Hardy, the man with whom his wife ran away fifteen years earlier while Jubilo was fighting in the war. After being ordered off the train, Jubilo witnesses a shootout in front of a bank during which a policeman is killed and a crook is shot; another crook gets into a getaway car driven by a friendly youth who earlier gave Jubilo a dollar bill. On his way to the Hardy home, Jubilo shaves with glass from a bottle. After seeing a man's clothes lying by a stream, he exchanges them for his own tattered ones. At the Hardy house, Jubilo is chased up a tree by a dog, but he then sweet-talks Mammy, the cook, into giving him some apple pie. Jubilo learns that the judge's wife died two years earlier and that the judge has a son, Dan, and a stepdaughter, Rose, who is actually Jubilo's own daughter. When he sees his clothes on Jubilo, Axel, the rough, gruff hired hand, knocks Jubilo down and retrieves his pants. Rose takes pity on Jubilo and, after hearing his song, remembers it as the one her mother used to sing. She invites Jubilo to stay on the condition that he does some work, so he connives to have Axel pluck a chicken and milk a cow for him. Jubilo learns that Hardy has been just like a father to Rose and that he worshipped her mother. When he meets the judge, Jubilo describes himself as having been "too busy to work" because he has been looking for the man who stole his wife. When Jubilo asks Hardy what he would do if he were in his place, the judge, shaken now that he realizes Jubilo's identity, says he must consider the matter. Dan, who turns out to be the youth who drove the getaway car, tells Jubilo that he did not know the robbery was going to take place; he owed one of the crooks money, and after he drove them supposedly to get liquor, he thought the gunfight was between bootleggers. Because he wants to protect Rose, who wants to marry Dan, Jubilo lies to the police about the description of the getaway car and its driver. The judge, admitting that Jubilo was robbed of the affection of his wife and daughter, gives him a box with a pistol inside and implies that justice would be served if Jubilo killed him. When Jubilo goes with Rose to put flowers on her mother's grave, he learns how hard her death was on the judge. Jubilo tries to convince the captured wounded crook to tell Hank, the chief of police, who suspects Dan, that Dan was innocently involved. He then convinces Dan to tell his father the truth, and as Dan confesses, Hank calls to say that the crook died after making a complete confession without implicating Dan. When the remaining crook forces Dan to open his father's safe, Jubilo shoots the crook during a struggle. He then refrains from disclosing the past because, he tells the judge, the man who stole his wife must have had quite a bit of good in him and has done more for his daughter than he could ever have done. Before leaving, Jubilo has Rose promise to sing the "Jubilo" song to her future children. Deeply affected while listening to her sing, he leaves the Hardy home and walks down the road.
Charles [g.] Clarke
H. C. Smith
Henry C. Work
Too Busy to Work
The film begins with a comical introduction in which Jubilo tries to help a fellow hobo try and catch a rabbit (despite his protestation, "I ain't pursuing any running breakfast"). Jubilo explains that he is heading to California to confront the man who stole his wife fifteen years prior: state Senate nominee Judge Hardy (Frederick Burton).
After disembarking from his personal boxcar, Jubilo witnesses a post-bank robbery shoot-out in which the getaway car is driven by a cheerful young man who had just given Jubilo a dollar: Dan Hardy (Dick Powell). Though Jubilo doesn't realize it, Dan is Judge Hardy's son, and the series of events that night will have fateful consequences for all concerned.
Eventually, Jubilo finds his way to the Hardy household. Without revealing his identity or intent, he befriends the family servant (Louise Beavers) by affectionately calling her "Mammy." Even though it will surely provoke a groan from contemporary viewers, this appeal to her Southern roots scores Jubilo a slice of apple pie and the offer of food and lodging in exchange for work. Jubilo carefully weighs the offer: "I don't want to get into the habit of working, but I don't want to get out of the habit of eating." He stays on, but manages to trick the oafish ranch hand Axel (Constantine Romanoff) into doing all the hard labor. When told to milk the cows, Jubilo quips, "I do all my milking with a can opener."
Jubilo learns his wife has died two years earlier, but that his daughter, Rose (Marian Nixon) still lives on the property. Sensing some sort of connection without realizing his paternity, Rose, like most everyone in Too Busy to Work, becomes enamored with the homespun do-nothing.
Jubilo slyly reveals his identity to Judge Hardy by telling the story of a man whose wife was stolen while the husband fought in World War I. Hardy gets the message, is wracked by guilt, and gives Jubilo a pistol with which to carry out whatever punishment he deems appropriate.
Meanwhile, Jubilo -- learning that Dan is Judge Hardy's son and Rose's fiancé -- lies to the police about Dan's involvement in the getaway. But Jubilo's story contradicts that of a wounded gunman and Dan risks arrest for his involvement in the crime.
But more persuasive than the book-learning of a prosperous judge is the home-grown wisdom of a hobo like Jubilo, who sets out to restore happiness and stability to the beleaguered family of which his precious daughter -- like it or not -- is now a part.
The story on which Too Busy to Work was based -- "Jubilo", by Ben Ames Williams (who penned the novel Leave Her to Heaven) -- originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. It was first adapted to the screen in 1919, with Rogers in the title role (his second film), under producer Samuel Goldwyn and director Clarence Badger.
Due to the popularity of the film, Rogers quickly became associated with the role. According to Ben Yoda's Will Rogers: A Biography, "Whenever [director Badger] and Will would go into the local movie theatre, the organist or pianist, immediately on recognizing the star, would play the 'Jubilo' melody."
In 1924, Rogers revisited the role in a two-reel short for the Hal Roach Studios: Jubilo, Jr.. This film, however, directed by Robert F. McGowan and co-starring Charley Chase and the Our Gang kids, resembles Williams's story in name only.
The sound-era remake was suggested by Goldwyn who, on October 3, 1929, sent Rogers a cordial note congratulating him on his work on Frank Borzage's They Had to See Paris (1929). "Why don't you try to have your company get Jubilo for you? It would make a marvelous talkie and think it would be infinitely better than the original silent version. If you will remember, this was the best picture we made together." And so it began.
The location scenes for Too Busy to Work were shot in Bishop, California from August 25 to September 4, 1932. The remainder was filmed at "Rogers Ranch," the actor's own studio facility in the Pacific Palisades from September 6 - October 4.
If one doesn't recognize the title of the tune from which Jubilo takes his name, one will surely recognize the melody, as it is a staple of Cavalry and Civil War films throughout the decade. The song, written by Henry Clay Work in 1863 to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation, was also known as "Kingdom Coming" and "In the Days of Jubilo." Telling the story of a plantation master's sudden flight from the invading Union forces, the chorus cheers, "The massa run, ha ha! The darky stay, ho ho!/It must be now the kingdom coming and the year of Jubilo!"
In its December 3, 1932 review of Too Busy to Work, The New York Times's Mordaunt Hall marveled at the contrast between actor and role: "Will Rogers, who without a doubt is one of Hollywood's most industrious inhabitants, portrays a tramp with a decided distaste for even the simplest form of toil. What is more, this actor, writer, flier, and polo enthusiast, actually gives an excellent impression of a lazy man."
The degree of pathos in the film was uncommon for Rogers' vehicles. He teeters on the verge of tears through most of the picture. The Times aptly compared Jubilo to the screen's best known sentimental tramp, "the last glimpse of Jubilo is very much like that of the little tramp of the Chaplin films, for he slouches away with his back to the audience along a road lined by tall trees."
When it opened on December 2 at New York's Roxy Theater, Too Busy to Work was accompanied by two stage shows, entitled "Silhouettes" and "Milady's Bouquet," and a prestidigitator named Keith Clark, "who actually hails from France [and] gives a further exhibition of his wizardry with lighted cigarettes," reported the Times. "He looks as though he has only one when he appears on the stage, but before his act is over he seems to have smoked and thrown away about ten cigarettes." One longs for a more detailed account of Clark's peculiar act.
Director: John G. Blystone
Screenplay: Barry Conners and Philip Klein
Based on the story "Jubilo" by Ben Ames Williams
Cinematography: Charles G. Clarke
Production Design: Max Parker
Music: Gene Rose
Cast: Will Rogers (Jubilo), Marian Nixon (Rose), Frederick Burton (Judge Hardy), Dick Powell (Dan Hardy), Louise Beavers (Mammy), Constantine Romanoff (Axel).
by Bret Wood
Too Busy to Work
The working title of this film was Jubilo. According to Film Daily, Dick Powell was loaned from Warner Bros., and El Brendel was to be in the cast. According to information in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Hale Hamilton was originally cast for the role of "Judge Hardy." Motion Picture Herald remarks that in this film, Will Rogers "does comparatively no topical political wisecracking," while Variety points out that "when a dog has him up a tree, Rogers addresses it as Herbie, Cal, Garner and finally Roosevelt," referring, of course, to political figures Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, John Nance Garner and Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1919, Goldwyn Pictures Corp. produced a film entitled Jubilo based on the same source, also starring Rogers and directed by Clarence G. Badger (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20; F1.2302). The 1939 Twentieth Century-Fox film of the same title bears no connection to this film.