A charming, sweet, antique film!
Steven Phillips | Ada, OK United States | 05/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rudy Vallee was a self-taught saxophonist from Maine who was considered to be one of the better instrumentalists of his day. He took a year off from his studies at Yale in 1924 to play with the excellent Savoy Havana dance orchestra in London (lead by Reg Batten), where he played first saxophone to famous oboe-soloist, composer, and future bandleader, Van (Alexander Van Cleve) Phillips' second. (Phillips did not like Vallee. He considered the rising star to be predominantly a musically-talented, arrogant woman-chaser!) In London, Vallee also played first saxophone with Carroll Gibbons' orchestra. Gibbons lead one of the top-notch musical aggregations in England and never settled for a second-rate performance, much less a second-rate musician. Further, Vallee played in an instrumental quartet backing-up two HMV recordings made by Beatrice Lillie and Gertrude Lawrence. Vallee's musicianship was apparently of the highest quality.
Vallee returned to the US after a year had passed and completed his degree work in philosophy and romance languages. He then directed the Yale band at the 1926 Yale-Harvard football game and began making a name for himself in local music circles. He began receiving national attention in 1928 when his band got booked into the Heigh-Ho Club in New York City where Vallee served as the master of ceremonies and began singing. Popular male vocalists of that period can be grouped largely into two types: 1) the singing/shouting carnival-barker type (Al Jolson; Harry Richman; Irving Kauffman); and 2) the high-pitched, gentle delivery type (Gene Austin; Jack Fulton; Smith Ballew). Vallee was a type 2 singer at that time when the type 2s were in their ascendancy (Austin's "Ramona" was the #1 hit of 1928). The Heigh-Ho radio broadcasts turned Vallee into a national star over night. Fans were impressed with his sincerity, polished mannerisms, quick wit, and of course, his saxophone playing and his singing.
Vallee began his own, hour-long radio broadcast in 1929, "The Fleischmann Hour," and this show became and remained one of the most popular variety shows in the US until Vallee terminated it in 1938. Vallee's show can be credited with "discovering" Alice Faye, Milton Berle, Edgar Bergen, Frances Langford, Red Skelton, Joe Penner, Dorothy Lamour, and many other stars of the 1930s-1950s. Vallee was also successful on Broadway, starring in George White's Scandals of 1931, and made 43 films, the last of which was the extremely forgettable "Sunburst" in 1975.
"Vagabond Lover" was Vallee's third film appearance. He previously made two shorts in 1929, both of which are now lost. Vallee's acting is wooden, dull, and lifeless. Co-star Sally Blane (19 year-old sister of Loretta Young) awkwardly fluffs her lines more than once. The dance routines look more like rehersals than finished numbers. The saving grace for the acting in this film is the stellar performance by Marie Dressler. However, in 1929, it is not certain that actors or directors really knew how to function in the new medium of talking pictures. I feel that Vallee's non-performance holds up well to other film contemporaries' over-performances such as, Charles King (Broadway Melody) and Frank Fay (Show of Shows), or the whole-cast non-performances in Paul Whiteman's disaster of 1930 (King of Jazz).
"Vagabond Lover" is a sweet, innocent, gentle film with an intentionally minimal plot that was made primarily as a showcase for the musical talents of the rising, luminous star of 1929, Rudy Vallee. Vallee's and his orchestra's (The Connecticut Yankees) musical performances are absolutely superb and eminently enjoyable. More than just a film, "Vagabond Lover" is a window to our popular music past and the culture that created it. It is, therefore, worthwhile seeing and enjoying on multiple levels of awareness."
VALLEE THE CROONER.
scotsladdie | 11/20/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In this rather trite offering from 1929, Bandleader Rudy Bronson (Vallee) dreams of becoming a big star with his college band. While it was spare on plot and dramatics, THE VAGABOND LOVER does showcase Vallee at the height of his popularity. Simplistic at best, the movie is badly hampered by Vallee's wooden "acting" performance and by the fact that director Marshal Neiland went on a drunken spree during production, following the death of his mother. Rudy goes through the entire gamut of emotions without moving a muscle! But believe it or not, his singing in the film was relished by his admirers of the day. The film is credited for being the first talkie in which the legendary Marie Dressler appeared. Dressler steals the show as the society dame who carries on a feud with her rival, well-played by Nella Walker. Vallee burst upon the entertainment scene in 1928, quickly becoming a popular club, radio, vaudeville and record attraction with his band, The Connecticut Yankees. By 1929, he was quickly developing into the nation's first singing idol. This film is a result of his quickly-found but ultimately fleeting fame (Vallee's style of crooning - unfortunately - doesn't stand the test of time)."
For good, clean fun there's nothing like a vagabond lover
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 01/04/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Vagabond Lover is a relatively strong early talkie despite a few flaws. Sure, Rudy Vallée's acting is stiff--and whose idea was it for him to sing with his heavily made-up eyes closed, anyway? He was wearing too much eye makeup, unfortunately. Marie Dressler's acting, on the other hand, is excellent and that's grand considering that this film was her first talking motion picture. The plot moves along a bit too slowly but the musical numbers are quite good and overall it's still an enjoyable movie.
When the action starts, Rudy Bronson (Rudy Vallée) and his band mates (The Connecticut Yankees) are practicing; they want to make their mark in show business. Their playing isn't exactly the best; but Rudy has confidence in their future especially since he is a graduate of the Ted Grant mail order saxophone playing school. To increase their chances of being discovered, Rudy and the band decide to visit Ted Grant (Malcolm Waite) on his Long Island estate; but when they get there Ted leaves for the city without seeing the young band that traveled to visit him.
However, the band members are not going away all that quickly. They sneak into Ted Grant's house but get noticed by Mrs. Ethel Bertha Whitehall (Marie Dressler) and her niece Jean (Sally Blane) who live next door. Officer Tuttle (Charles Sellon) arrives but Rudy and his buddies manage to convince him that they really are Ted Grant and his band. The cop still has his doubts but he leaves them alone--for now. It also isn't long before Jean and Rudy see romance when they look into each other's eyes; and it helps the plot to have this romance blossom.
It's essentially a case of mistaken identity and people like Rudy and his mates keep up the false pretenses until more and more trouble comes their way. Look for some fairly interesting "misunderstandings" that develop throughout the film.
The musical numbers are great. Rudy didn't act very well; but he sings songs like ""I Love You, Believe Me, I Love You" flawlessly. What a voice he had! Rudy does an equally good job when he sings ""If You Were the Only Girl in the World, and I Were the Only Boy." There is a small kiddie act by four young girls who play orphans at a charity benefit; they sing "Georgie Porgie" very sweetly.
The Vagabond Lover is a classic movie that should be remembered more fondly. Marie Dressler practically steals every scene she's in; and the musical numbers by Rudy Vallée and The Connecticut Yankees are entertaining. I happily recommend this film.