The two-man Laurel and Hardy Zoot Suit Band find themselves fronting a scam for "gasolene pills" in wartime oil-short America. They are however soon on the side of the angels helping recover $10,000 for an attractive young lady whose family have themselves been swindled. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A shadow of their former glory, but still rather watchable
Following 1940's SAPS AT SEA, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy became free agents--selling their talents to studios such as Fox and RKO. While these and other studios were willing to pay them more than they'd been getting from Hal Roach Studio, the quality of all these post-Roach films took a significant hit. Unless you are a die-hard fan of the team, you really should watch their earlier stuff--it's just so much funnier and better.
While JITTERBUGS isn't a bad film, it's a mere shadow of their former style and glory--mostly because it has too much plot and too much singing. The beauty of the older Laurel and Hardy films was that they could take very simple plots and milk it for all it was worth just by allowing them to slowly do their thing. Here, however, the film is very plot-heavy and like all these later lesser films, the duo are more supporting actors instead of the whole show. Here, Vivian Blaine and Robert Bailey take away from the focus on Stan and Ollie--with Blaine singing (way too much) and Bailey as a smooth-talking grifter. In the older films, Stan and Ollie were THE focus--supporting characters were never intended to have much personality and were there merely for the use and abuse of the team. Here, the audience is simply distracted by these lesser talents--and I wanted much more Stan and Ollie!!
Now despite these distractions, the film works very well on occasion. First, when the boys are performing as a two-man band, this scene is very clever and the music very catchy--so, of course, this small scene is never repeated and apart from this tiny scene, there is not Jitterbugging at all--despite the title! Second, there are some funny moments--particularly when Stan dresses up like Ms. Blaine's aunt. While it may not sound all that funny, Stanley handles it well and you can't help but laugh--especially when he utters the line "I feel so gay"--you gotta see it to appreciate it!
So overall, it's a very, very mixed bag but an overall product that still has you wondering why the studio didn't just let Stan and Ollie "do their thing"? Why insert other characters or include lots of distracting singing and show tunes?! With the greatest movie duo in history, it was insulting to given them material that just wasn't up to snuff. And speaking of not being up to snuff, how about that floating gas scene where the wires were so obvious and visible?! Didn't Laurel and Hardy deserve better than just some cheap stunt than looked third-rate?
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