Tuesday, July 30, 2019


This 1941 Swing-oriented musical comedy, made by the Stooges’ own studio, Columbia (not a loan-out as with Stooge features such as SWING PARADE OF 1946, made at Monogram, or GOLD RAIDERS, an independent film released by United Artists), is a pleasant surprise, which I stumbled across accidentally online. When I was first learning about the Stooges’ history, by reading about them in books in the library back in the 70’s and 80’s, a film like this would just be a title to me—what would be the likelihood of it ever playing on TV in my area? Not much, so I just filed it away in the back of my head….evidently, pretty far back, as I’d completely forgotten it. It’s not like today, where you can Google it and start watching it in fifteen seconds, for free.

Every studio churned out bottom-of-the-bill Swing musicals in the late 30’s and early 40’s, and the studios that made the best B-movies tended to make the most entertaining ones because they understood good pacing, alternated three or four clever subplots throughout the running time (which they kept brief), and had talented comic performers under contract (or available cheaply). The better films also had some hot swinging musical numbers and not just syrupy ballads by “boy singers” and “girl singers” as they were then known. Some band leaders, such as Ozzie Nelson (watch the 1942 STRICTLY IN THE GROOVE sometime, which pairs Nelson with Shemp Howard, Leon Errol, and Franklin Pangborn!), had a comic persona as part of their regular “act” that they could exploit, beyond just leading the band.

Before we get to the Stooges, the comedy front-line in the film is first-rate….longtime dim-witted comic flunky-to-gangsters ALLEN JENKINS, along with the dim-witted cop from the Boston Blackie films (made at Columbia) RICHARD LANE, and doing a great lampoon of his own stuffed-shirt Ivy League background, RUDY VALLEE (always good at comedy—watch him as the song-stealing “America’s Beloved Tunesmith, Alvin Weiner” in the mid-70’s ELLERY QUEEN TV show with Jim Hutton and see how the man was still a scene-stealing supporting actor nearly 50 years after his initial fame as a late 20’s crooner, in the pre-Bing Crosby age) run a low-rung talent agency looking for cheap acts to exploit. Their cynical and threadbare and hare-brained schemes are a riot, and I wish they’d later been given their own comedy shorts or movie series as they are so good in this.

One of the musical sequences is wild also. Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, who made many pile-driving uptempo records in the early 30’s but were still a crack outfit in the early 40’s, do a novelty rhythm tune called “Boogie Woogie Man” that is shot in the dark with the musicians playing glow-in-the-dark instruments, a routine later used by Louis Jordan and band in the film SWING PARADE OF 1946 a few years later, which coincidentally also starred The Three Stooges.

The Stooges themselves get four featured sequences spread throughout the film and are also around at other times. They are unemployed actors trying to get bookings through the Jenkins-Lane-Vallee agency. I don’t want to give away what their scenes are—I did not know going into the film exactly what they would be doing, and I appreciated them suddenly appearing out of the blue a lot more than I would have if I knew what they would be doing. Let’s just say that one of their classic routines is premiered here before they even did it in one of their own shorts, they also revive an old routine from their early 30’s Ted Healy days, and they are even featured in the blow-out final musical number, with Curly “in character” doing an outrageous impression of a certain exotic songstress of the day.

Running a brisk 74 minutes, TIME OUT FOR RHYTHM is almost a textbook example of how the makers of these B-programmers knew how to pack so much into a brief, entertaining, and fast-moving package, giving you comedy, music, and romance….and most importantly, tying it all up before you are ever tempted to look at your watch. The first rule of entertainment and the arts should always be “leave them wanting more.” What a Golden Age this period was! And the crew that made this probably churned it out in 10 days, and then moved on to another project—they did not sit around whining about being misunderstood artistes!

1 comment:

diskojoe said...

I went to LA in the late 80s to visit friends, one of whom worked in the old Columbia lot. I was shown where the Stooges shot most of their shorts & was told that they were mostly shot at night, so that the "important" movies could made during the day.

I 'm also a fan of the ELLERY QUEEN series. I remember watching it as as kid & I'm going through the DVD set for the second time.