AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Vagabond Lover
Director: Marshall Neilan (Dir)
Release Date:   1 Dec 1929
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 26 Nov 1929
Duration (in mins):   65
Duration (in feet):   6,217
Duration (in reels):   8
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Cast:   Rudy Vallee (Rudy Bronson)  
    Sally Blane (Jean)  
    Marie Dressler (Mrs. Whitehall)  
    Charles Sellon (Officer Tuttle)  
    Nella Walker (Mrs. Tod Hunter)  
    Eddie Nugent (Sport)  
    Danny O'Shea (Sam)  
    Alan Roscoe (Manager)  
  And The Connecticut Yankees    
    Norman Peck (Swiftie)  
    Malcolm Waite (Ted Grant)  

Summary: Saxophone player and singer Rudy Bronson, who leads a small town band, has taken a correspondence course from famous impresario saxophonist Ted Grant. When Grant advertises that he is conducting a talent search, Rudy convinces the other band members to accompany him to the Long Island home to which Grant recently moved, in order to audition for him. Unknown to Rudy, the courses and advertising are simply publicity stunts devised by Grant’s manager, and the bandleader has grown weary of the personal intrusion the schemes have invited. After refusing to listen to Rudy’s band when they appear at his doorstep, Grant and his manager leave for the city. However, Rudy is unaware of their departure and, believing that Grant will be pleased by their performance, is convinced by his fellow musicians to sneak into the mansion and begin playing. As they enter through a back door, Grant’s socialite neighbor, Mrs. Whitehall, arrives to ask Grant to play at her party that evening. Presuming that Rudy and his band are burglars, she alerts the local constable, Officer Tuttle. However, having never met her new neighbor, she is soon persuaded by the band, who do not want to be arrested for breaking and entering, that Rudy is Grant. Upon seeing Mrs. Whitehall’s niece Jean, Rudy is instantly smitten and goes along with the deception, although he feels guilty about it. Rudy agrees to perform at the party, and after they play that evening, Mrs. Whitehall decides that the band should headline a series of concert programs she is chairing to benefit poor children. Opposing her decision is her rival, the snobbish Mrs. Tod Hunter, who does not consider jazz suitable music. The next day, the band members wait for the 6:00 p.m. train that will take them home, anxiously aware that Tuttle remains suspicious of them, while Rudy and Jean spend the day together, falling in love. Although Rudy attempts to tell Jean their true identity, his confession is interrupted by the triumphant return of Mrs. Whitehall, who has gained the approval of the benefit committee to schedule "Grant's" band for that evening. Meanwhile, Mrs. Tod Hunter’s opera artists, offended by the addition of jazz to the program, refuse to cooperate and leave town. Because the performance will be aired on the radio, Mrs. Whitehall wires Grant’s manager to gain permission for the band’s music to be broadcast and receives a telegram from the manager declaring that they are imposters and that the local police have been asked to arrest the band. Although Jean is disillusioned by Rudy’s deception, she drives the band to the train station before the police arrive in order to protect her aunt from the scandal of an arrest occurring at her house. At the station, Jean laments that her aunt’s reputation has been tarnished and that, because the benefit program must be cancelled and the money returned, the poor children will suffer. Knowing that he will go to jail if he stays, Rudy nevertheless decides to remain and perform, and his band members loyally follow his suit. At her mansion, Mrs. Whitehall is inundated by reporters covering the scandal, who now also think that Jean has eloped with a “vagabond lover.” As Mrs. Whitehall fields the reporters' questions, a radio announcement reports that the amateur musicians will perform at the benefit and the show will go on. That evening, the band is a success with the audience, but immediately afterward, Rudy turns himself in to the police, requesting that he alone be punished. Feeling that her benefit program and social standing has been jeopardized, Mrs. Whitehall wishes to exact revenge by fully prosecuting until Jean shows her numerous telegrams sent to the radio station lauding the concert and praising Mrs. Whitehall for her “genius” musical discovery. Grant also arrives with his manager and, impressed by Rudy’s performance, claims him as his protégé and declares that he will add his name and testimonial to advertise his various programs. As Grant and Mrs. Whitehall argue over who “discovered” the musical talent, Rudy and Jean slip away together, and the band provides romantic music for them. 

Production Company: RKO Productions, Inc.  
Distribution Company: RKO Distributing Corp.  
Director: Marshall Neilan (Dir)
  Wallace Fox (Asst dir)
Producer: William LeBaron (Prod)
  Louis Sarecky (Assoc prod)
Writer: James Ashmore Creelman (Scr)
Photography: Leo Tover (Photog)
Art Direction: Max Rée (Art dir)
Film Editor: Arthur Roberts (Film ed)
Sound: John Tribby (Rec)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "A Little Kiss Each Morning," words and music by Harry M. Woods; "I Love You, Believe Me, I Love You," words and music by Ruby Cowan, Philip Bartholomae and Phil Boutelje; "If You Were the Only Girl in the World," words by Clifford Grey, music by Nat D. Ayer; "Nobody's Sweetheart," words and music by Gus Kahn, Ernie Erdman, Billy Meyers and Elmer Schoebel; "(Then) I'll be Reminded of You," words by Edward Heyman, music by Ken Smith; "Georgie Porgie," words and music by Louis Herscher, Harold Raymond and Nat Simon; "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover," words and music by Rudy Vallee and Leon Zimmerman.
Composer: Nat D. Ayer
  Philip Bartholomae
  Phil Boutelje
  Ruby Cowan
  Ernie Erdman
  Clifford Grey
  Louis Herscher
  Edward Heyman
  Gus Kahn
  Billy Meyers
  Harold Raymond
  Elmer Schoebel
  Nat Simon
  Ken Smith
  Rudy Vallee
  Harry M. Woods
  Leon Zimmerman
Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
RKO Distributing Corp. 25/11/1929 dd/mm/yyyy LP970 Yes

Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Photophone System

Genre: Comedy-drama
Sub-Genre: with songs
Subjects (Major): Band leaders
  Impersonation and imposture
  Long Island (NY)
Subjects (Minor): Aunts
  Correspondence schools and courses
  Cultural elitism
  Jazz music
  Opera singers
  Radio programs
  Small town life

Note: Screenwriter James Ashmore Creelman receives two onscreen credits, first in the opening title card as " The Vagabond Lover by James Ashmore Creelman," and then a separate screenplay credit on a later card. After the opening credits a title card appears that reads: "Every small town has its small town band with big ideas." The Vagabond Lover marked the feature film debut of band leader and crooner Rudy Vallee (1901--1986) and his band, The Connecticut Yankees, who previously had appeared in shorts and on radio programs.
       A radio personality idolized by women of the time, Vallee is considered by many to be the first of the crooners, a predecessor of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. His characteristic use of a megaphone to project his voice before microphones were standardly used was often imitated. The song, "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover," which is heard during the opening credits of the film, was one of Billboard 's top singles hits of 1929.
       Vallee's broadcasts from New York City's Heigh Ho Club made him a household name in the U.S., and it was there where he first used his signature greeting, "Heigh-ho, everybody," that also became the title of one of his songs. Although somes sources state that the songs, "Heigh-Ho Everybody, Heigh-Ho" (words and music by Harry M. Woods), "Piccolo Pete" (words and music by Ruby Cowan, Philip Bartholomae and Phil Boutelje) and "Sweetheart We Need Each Other" (words by Joseph McCarthy, music by Harry, Tierney) were in the film, they were not heard in the viewed print. According to the Var and NYT reviews, Vallee made a personal appearance at the film's New York opening and gave a short speech. Vallee's second film, Glorifying the American Girl (see above), a Paramount film produced by Florenz Ziegfeld, was released a short time later on 7 Dec 1929.  

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Film Daily   1 Dec 1929   p. 10.
Harrison's Reports   7 Dec 1929.   
New York Times   27 Nov 1929   p. 30.
Variety   4 Dec 1929   p. 15.

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