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Jubilo (1919)

6.0
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Jubilo, a tramp, makes himself useful doing odd jobs in a small farming community while he looks for the wife who deserted him while he was off in the war. He discovers that young Rose is ... See full summary »

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Title: Jubilo (1919)

Jubilo (1919) on IMDb 6/10

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Cast

Cast overview:
...
Jubilo
Josie Sedgwick ...
Rose Hardy
Charles K. French ...
Jim Handy (as Charles French)
Willard Louis ...
Punt
Jim Mason ...
Bert Rooker (as James Mason)
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Storyline

Jubilo, a tramp, makes himself useful doing odd jobs in a small farming community while he looks for the wife who deserted him while he was off in the war. He discovers that young Rose is his own daughter and not the daughter of prominent Judge Hardy, with whom Jubilo's wife had run off years before. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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train robbery | See All (1) »

Genres:

Comedy | Drama | Western

Certificate:

Approved
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Details

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Release Date:

7 December 1919 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Will Rogers claimed that this film was shot without a script, with the cast and crew reading directly from the Saturday Evening Post short story on which it was based. See more »

Connections

Remade as Too Busy to Work (1932) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Or, The Vagabond With a Heart as Big as His Appetite
5 April 2007 | by (Westchester County, NY) – See all my reviews

Now that Will Rogers' Fox features of the '30s are finally making their way onto DVD it would be nice to see his early silent films get some attention too, perhaps as bonus extras included with the talkies. At this writing Will's silent work remains hard to find, which is too bad, because most of these rarities hold up well and some are genuinely charming. 'Jubilo' is Rogers's earliest surviving film. It was the third feature he starred in for Samuel Goldwyn, and over all I'd say it's the best of his silent movies I've seen to date, though that's not the same as calling it a laugh riot. Will Rogers was indeed a humorist, on stage, in print, and over the radio, but where his film career was concerned his material was often surprisingly serious. Will's two-reel shorts for Hal Roach were the only outright gag-oriented comedies he made. 'Jubilo,' on the other hand, was clearly intended as a character-based Western drama, with occasional comic touches. It's closer in tone and tempo to the Fox features of Will's later years than to the Roach comedies, but once you adjust it proves to be an interesting, unusual and entertaining movie in its own right.

Will is introduced as a homeless tramp wandering the Oklahoma countryside, a guy who sleeps in barns and is allergic to labor. When he arrives at a ranch and asks for food, he makes it clear with several well-turned quips that he's not keen on working in return for a meal, and only reluctantly agrees to do so. The ranch is owned by an older gent, Jim Hardy, who shares it with his attractive daughter Rose. In response to their kindness (as well as a vigorous drubbing from Jim!) Jubilo gradually learns the value of earning his keep. Hardy turns out to be a retired judge, and when he and Rose are menaced by a crook Jim sent to prison in earlier years, Jubilo rises to the occasion and protects his benefactors.

The plot isn't much, but that's not the point. 'Jubilo' is all about the title character's reformation, and some viewers may be surprised at just how unsympathetic our protagonist is in the early scenes. On first acquaintance Jubilo comes off as so selfish and lazy we begin to wonder why we should care what happens to him. (When I saw this film at a recent screening at NYC's Museum of Modern Art I noticed a couple of walk-outs during the first fifteen minutes or so, and Will's unlikable character may have been a factor.) Stick with it, however, and you'll find that his transformation into a better person is a gratifying thing to witness. It's a tribute to Rogers' underrated skill as an actor that this famously charismatic man was able, first, to convincingly portray such a disagreeable figure, and second, that he was able to make Jubilo's reformation credible. It was no easy assignment, but in my opinion Will pulled it off, and when you consider that this movie was the biggest box office success of all his Goldwyn features it would appear that audiences of his day thought so, too.

For today's audiences the early scenes of 'Jubilo' present additional challenges. As with many silent features the first couple of reels are heavily laden with title cards full of wordy exposition, but on the positive side the text is generally witty and the cards themselves are nicely illustrated. Some viewers may be uncomfortable when the dialog quotes "In the Days of Jubilo," a 19th century Negro spiritual that supplied the lead character with his name. The quotes from the lyrics are rendered in the thick dialect of minstrelsy, but as long as you can take this in its historical context, i.e., that Jubilo is quoting the song as it was sung in those days, it's acceptable. (In the talkie remake of this movie, Too Busy to Work, Will performs the song in a duet with Marian Nixon, who plays his daughter.) The only other drawback is that the supporting players aren't very distinctive, although Jim Mason makes an enjoyably sleazy villain.

In sum, this movie is a treat for fans of silent cinema, Westerns, and of course, for fans of Will Rogers. Speaking of fans, according to Ben Yagoda's definitive Rogers biography the cowboy humorist-turned-movie star had a most unexpected admirer. Around the time 'Jubilo' was released, the naturalism of Rogers' screen portrayals was publicly praised by none other than Erich Von Stroheim! I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one. And a final note: when producer Sam Goldwyn pondered changing the title 'Jubilo' to something catchier, Will retaliated with a telegram listing several deliberately cumbersome, corny and/or dumb suggestions (including the one in my subject heading above). Others included "He Lies But He Don't Mean It," "The Hungry Tramp's Revenge," and "He Loses in the First Reel But Wins in the Last." Fortunately Will's stratagem was successful, and Goldwyn stuck with the original title.


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