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The Vagabond Lover (1929)

Passed | | Comedy, Musical | 1 December 1929 (USA)
A zany musical about an amateur musician in search of work who impersonates a big band leader.




On Disc

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Complete credited cast:
Jean Whitehall
Ethel Bertha Whitehall
Chief of Police George C. Tuttle
Mrs. Whittington Todhunter
Sport (as Eddie Nugent)
Danny O'Shea ...
Alan Roscoe ...
Jay Stein - 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 <genart@volcano.net>

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 »


Rudy Bronson: Look, its a brand new, gold plated, super toned, deluxe, Ted Grant saxophone. Listen to these low notes.
Connecticut Yankee Saxophonist: Sounds like he's givin' himself the bird.
Connecticut Yankee Drummer: That bird reminds me of Fritz Chrysler.
Connecticut Yankee Banjo Player: Chrysler's not a saxophone player.
Connecticut Yankee Drummer: Neither is he.
See more »


Then I'll Be Reminded of You
(1929) (uncredited)
Music by Ken Smith
Lyrics by Edward Heyman
Performed by The Connecticut Yankees
Sung by Rudy Vallee
See more »

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User Reviews

False Pretenses
7 February 2003 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

THE VAGABOND LOVER (RKO Radio, 1929), directed by Marshall Neilan, is an appropriate title to one of the most popular vocalists of the time, Rudy Vallee (1901- 1986). As with many singers making a screen debut, Vallee's performance is somewhat stiff, reciting his lines as if he were reading from cue cards, but satisfactory with his vocalizing. Unlike future crooners as Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra, Vallee's screen career in leading roles were limited but acting overall improved through the passage of time. By the 1940s, however, Vallee started a new chapter in his career playing stuffy millionaires starting with Preston Sturges' comedic masterpiece, THE PALM BEACH STORY (Paramount, 1942) starring Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea. As for THE VAGABOND LOVER, this is where the Rudy Vallee of motion picture screen began.

"Every small town has its small town band with big town ideas," is its opening title before introducing Rudy Bronson (Rudy Vallee), the lead vocalist and organizer of a college senior band who's been studying on developing his own orchestra by Ted Grant's mail order guide. Feeling Grant to be a remarkable man and speaking of him as he if were an old friend to his band members, Rudy heads over to Grant's Long Island home with his band for an audition. As Ted Grant (Malcolm Waite) prepares on leaving town for a vacation with his associates, Rudy, initially thrown out of Grant's home by the butler, intends not giving up enters Grant's home through an open window with his band members behind him. By the time Rudy gets his band organized, Grant who has already gone, ends up orchestrating his band to an empty house. Having been spotted by Ethel Whitehall (Marie Dressler), a wealthy matron, and her niece, Jean (Sally Blane), for entering through the window, the next door neighbors notify Officer George T. Tuttle (Charles Sellon) to investigate housebreaking. Confronting the "burglars," members of the band cover up by telling Tuttle, Mrs. Whitehall and Jean that Rudy IS Ted Grant and that they accidentally locked themselves out of the house. With one thing leading to another, Mrs. Whitehall soon engages "Ted Grant's Orchestra" to perform at a charity benefit for orphans. Rudy becomes successful, but feels guilty about his false pretense. At the advise of his band, Rudy remains silent, going on with his masquerade, even with the possibility of being exposed as a fraud and losing Jean, whom he's very much interested.

During its brief 65 minutes, THE VAGABOND LOVER manages to squeeze in a handful of popular tunes, old and new, including "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover" (voiceover sung by Vallee during opening credits); "I'm Nobody's Sweetheart Now" (sung by band); "I Love You, Believe Me, I Love You," "Georgie Porgie" (sung by orphans); "If You Were the Only Girl in the World, and I Were the Only Boy," "A Little Kiss Each Morning, A Little Kiss Each Night," Instrumental dancing to "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover" and "Sweetheart, We Need Each Other," "I Love You, Believe Me, I Love You" (reprise by Vallee) and "I'll Be Reminded of You."

Unlike some 1929 releases consisting of faded photography and distorted sound, the production values of THE VAGABOND LOVER are quite good. What may hurt the value of this movie today is the wooden acting of Rudy Vallee. Considering this to be his first screen appearance, with sound techniques still relatively new, this could be overlooked. Another bonus is the plot not focusing heavily on melodramatics with tearful solutions, but an overly familiar but an amusing mistaken identity plot that makes this antique more palatable. For anyone unfamiliar with the Rudy Vallee method, his singing singing style stir up chuckles with contemporary viewers, particularly watching his facial close- up with makeup on lips and eye-lids while singing with his eyes closed and mouth wide open.

THE VAGABOND LOVER is redeemed somewhat by Marie Dressler (1869-1934) in the early stages of her sound career. Unlike the lovable characters she performed so well later on at MGM, she presents herself here more like a Margaret Dumont (of the Marx Brothers fame) type than anything else, but she's still Marie. Watching THE VAGABOND LOVER comes as a blessing as to something new, considering how the Dressler legend lies more on the frequent revival to the excellent sophisticated comedy-drama, DINNER AT EIGHT (MGM, 1933). To see more of Dressler and other films (such as her Academy Award winning performance in MIN AND BILL in 1930) is to learn more about her gifted talent of long ago.

The performance of Sally Blane (sister to actress Loretta Young) has her mostly sitting back and listening with awe to Rudy's singing. ("When you sing like that, I wish you'd go on forever."). Charles Sellon, whose Officer Tuttle could have easily been played by Ned Sparks, adds a little spark as the crusty old policeman who suspects Rudy as a phony. Rounding out the cast of reliables are Nella Walker (Mrs. Todhunter); Norman Peck ("Swiftie"); Edward J. Nugent ("Sport"); and Rudy Vallee's Connecticut Yankees.

This rarely shown item was first introduced to public television in its weekly film series, SPROCKETS (1982). After that series expired, THE VAGABOND LOVER was later shown on American Movie Classics, and then on Turner Classic Movies. Formerly distributed on video cassette, it's availability can be found on DVD.

THE VAGABOND LOVER, an Rudy Vallee song-feast at best, is of sole interest for those interested in early talkies. According to legend, the screenplay used in THE VAGABOND LOVER is based on Rudy Vallee's own career. Did he actually climb through an open window to success? We'll never know. (**)

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