Every Sunday, Film School Rejects presents a movie that was made before you were born and tells you why you should like it. This week, Old Ass Movies presents:
No Time For Comedy (1940)
Jimmy Stewart owned the market on goofy, cheerful guy who others love to underestimate. There still hasn’t been an actor that plays those roles quite like Stewart did, so it makes sense that when Warner Brothers bought the rights to make S.N. Berhman’s play into a movie, they realized they’d need to borrow the actor from MGM for their flick. While they were at it, they figured they might as well borrow the gorgeous Rosalind Russell as well.
Gaylord Esterbrook (Jimmy Stewart) is a country bumpkin playwright who heads to the Big Apple when a big shot producer decides to stage his play about posh, high society life. The producer backs out after being unimpressed with Esterbrook’s backwoods charm. Luckily, acting star Linda Paige is impressed, and decides to put the play on herself with the help of some plucky actors. It’s a hit, and, as these things usually work out, Esterbrook and Paige fall in love.
For most movies, especially from that era, that story has enough meat on it to run a full 90 minutes. The great thing about No Time for Comedy is uses that basic story as its first act and focuses the rest of the movie on an honest look at the couple’s marriage, their successes, and the struggles they face. Overall, it’s as Hollywood-ending as a comedy should be, but there are some more serious situations going on – like divorce, reconciliation and professional failure.
It’s all about as bleak as a soap commercial, though, in the way comedies have to be during the era when it was okay to name your leading character “Gaylord”. Serious topics are glossed over in order for the happy-go-lucky ending to make sense, but Stewart and Russell – in their only picture together – handle the material really well and have a ton of chemistry.
That chemistry comes from the understated delivery of Esterbrook and the quick-tongued responses from Paige. He’s the kind of man we aspire to be – brilliant and humble, unassuming but destined for greatness. And Russell’s Linda Paige is the woman we want to fall in love with – bright and funny, vulnerable but tough.
Although this flick isn’t the best Jimmy Stewart or Rosalind Russell film – it’s definitely a funny movie with heart that’s great for lazy afternoons or for impressing dates with.