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The Vagabond Lover (1929)

Passed  |   |  Comedy, Musical  |  1 December 1929 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.4/10 from 140 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 2 critic

A zany musical about an amateur musician in search of work who impersonates a big band leader.



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Complete credited cast:
Jean Whitehall
Ethel Bertha Whitehall
Charles Sellon ...
Chief George C. Tuttle
Mrs. Whittington Todhunter
Edward J. Nugent ...
Sport (as Eddie Nugent)
Danny O'Shea ...
Alan Roscoe ...
Grant's Manager
The Connecticut Yankees ...
Musical Ensemble


College senior Rudy Bronson forms a band with other students and decides to take them to the Long Island home of Ted Grant, his mail order saxophone teacher. Grant and his manager, however, annoyed at Rudy's persistent attempts for admittance, flee to the city. The band makes one last attempt to enter the house by breaking down the door, but they are witnessed by the neighbor, Mrs. Whitehall and her charming niece Jean, who call the police thinking they are burglars. Sport, one of the band members, tells the policeman that Rudy is the famous Ted Grant and lost his key, and Rudy goes along with the deception to avoid jail. Rudy then accepts Mrs. Whitehall's invitation to perform at her upcoming benefit for orphans, because he has fallen in love with Jean. But what will happen, he worries, when Jean finds out the truth. Written by Arthur Hausner <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Musical


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 December 1929 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Jazztrubaduren  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Rudy Vallee's movie debut. See more »


Georgie Porgie Pudding and Pie
Sung by a quartet of young orphans at the benefit
See more »

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User Reviews

In context, this one is better than you might think!
16 September 2013 | by (Bradenton, Florida) – See all my reviews

Most folks watching "The Vagabond Lover" today would probably dislike it or at best tolerate it. However, given the context for the film, it is a pretty good film. That's because the early talking pictures had horrible sound--just horrible. Much of the action was stuck around hidden microphones--and the films seemed stiff and unnatural. Additionally, the sound quality was just awful in many of the film (the best example "Coquette"--the film that earned Mary Pickford an Oscar). However, "The Vagabond Lover" is less stagy and stiff and the sound quality is marvelous for such an early film. I am sure some of this is due to the restoration of the film by Roan. Regardless, it's a rare DVD because I didn't need captions in order to understand what the folks were saying--which is good, as it came with none.

This film is the first full-length film for Rudy Vallee, though he made two shorts (where he and his band just performed in front of a camera) earlier in 1929. Because he was brand-new to film (as well as to music, as he'd only been a nation-wide sensation for about a year), I can cut him some slack here. While he became an excellent supporting actor in such films as "Palm Beach Story" and "Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer", here in "The Vagabond Lover" he really is pretty stiff and bland. But, so were almost ALL singers in 1929! Flat, stilted acting was pretty common in the day and more naturalistic performances were still to come in the 1930s. The same can be said for the dance numbers--pretty crummy when seen today, but for 1929, not bad at all.

The story finds Vallee and his band (The Connecticut Yankees) out of work--and no one will hire them. They know they are good but just getting someone to LISTEN to them is the problem. So, they concoct a stupid plan--to break into the home of a famous musician, Ted Grant, and perform for him!! This insanely irrational plan really goes unexpectedly poorly when the neighbor (Marie Dressler) sees them break in and calls the police. One of the band members comes up with an even more insane solution--to tell the cops and the neighbor that Vallee IS Ted Grant. They do believe them but this creates another problem with this goofy society lady (Dressler) insists that they MUST perform at a local benefit. They cannot say no and it's not at all surprising that Grant learns that SOMEONE is using his name! What will come of all this as well as Vallee's budding romance with the dippy society matron's daughter (Sally Blane)?

Despite Vallee's stiffness, the weakest part of the film, for me, was actually Dressler. While some of the reviewers really liked her (and some thought she was the best thing in the film), I thought her acting was about as subtle as a stripper at a Baptist picnic! Her later wonderful acting (like she did in "Dinner at Eight") was not apparent. Here she was far, far from subtle and dialing back her goofy performance a bit would have helped. Now I have said a lot about the shortcomings of the film, but there are also some nice things apart from the great sound. The plot, though heavily used in later years, works well and some of the band members were really relaxed on film. Plus, the film IS fun. So, while compared to a 1935 or 1940 film it's very weak, for 1929, it's actually quite nice and worth seeing if you, like me, adore old films.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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