Production company: Cinesound Productions
Budget: c. £20-22,000 (Director Ken Hall claimed in his memoirs that he never made a film more expensive than the £22,000 spent on Dad Rudd, M.P. but The Broken Melody was a relatively expensive production)
Locations: Interiors Cinesound studios, Bondi, exteriors Sydney and suburbs, including the Orion, an Orient Line ship Sydney dockside; stock footage for London.
Filmed: October-November 1937
Australian distributor: B.E.F. (British Empire Films, then also known as Associated Distributors)
Australian release: Embassy Theatre, Sydney, 17th June, 1938, other cities thereafter.
Released late in 1938 in England by R.K.O. under the title The Vagabond Violinist (a 1934 British crime show had used the title The Broken Melody).
Rating: Not suitable for general exhibiton
35mm black and white
Running time: 89 mins (Oxford Australian Film)
Running time for tape based release 'in the wild': 1'22"43, or c. 7,150 feet.
Box office: "an easy profit" (Oxford Australian Film). The film was given a staged release around Australia, with publicity from capital cities used to leverage up rural and regional screenings. The film had a good four week premiere run at the Embassy in Sydney, at a time when movies usually turned over on a weekly basis.
Hall appreciated the challenge of selling such a difficult mix of high culture and depression era drama, and though it was mainly pushed as a musical, Cinesound in its advertising made punters aware there was something for everyone - drama, music, romance, comedy and acting!
The film was also sold into the UK where it was distributed by RKO.
A copy of the film derived from a tape-based source circulates amongst collectors. The version seen by this site contains unfortunately large time code at about head height, but as with all Ken G. Hall's rare shows, something is always better than nothing.
The image is only FAQ of the VHS kind, and the sound shows its optical source, but this is one of Hall's more interesting outings.
His feature films had a very diverse palate - from slapstick and vaudeville star George Wallace to horse racing and the timber industry - and there's a bit of everything in The Broken Melody.
The first third of the film dares to mention the depression and Bolshies and to rail against the banks, and with its portrait of bums by the side of Sydney Harbour, the film almost strays into a kind of Capra social realism, though it's leavened by vaudeville routines from Alec Kellaway's pickpocket and by Harry Abdy and Rita Paunceford doing a married rich couple schtick.
Then it the story turns to sheer fantasy, with Rosalind Kennerdale hamming it up as a diva, in competition with scriptwriter Frank Harvey hamming it up as a French musical entrepreneur. The last act features a silly "break a leg and become a star" routine for Diana Du Cane - Lloyd Hughes has already been through the same routine by that stage - but it also features original music by Alfred Hill.
It's an eclectic mix, a reflection of the source material, and it doesn't hang together as a film, but the result's an interesting social, cultural and ethnographic mix of depression reality and colonial aspirations. The transformation of Alec Kellaway's knockabout Joe Larkin, a cave-dwelling Sydney shoelace seller and pickpocket, into a Cockney man servant swanning about in the world of European classical music is just one of many odd moments in the film.
There are some clips available online at the ASO here if your idea of watching a ninety minute feature film is to watch a couple of clips.
The film is based on F. J. Thwaites' best selling novel, which he claimed he wrote at the age of 17 (or at the age of 19 and a half, according to other various versions of the story), and which he self-published in 1930, acting as his own commercial traveller and selling the book in the Riverina.
Thwaites' was a mediocre but popular and a determinedly professional writer, with a taste for romance and melodrama. He was also an astute businessman and eccentric.
The ADB has a detailed biography of Thwaites here.
(Courier-Mail 5th July 1938)
At time of writing, the book was still widely available in various editions:
In his autobiography, Directed by Ken Hall, Hall brooded about the way Hollywood could afford to adapat best-selling books, while Australia was bereft, with impractical authors who never thought of screen rights sales, and with the Maurice Wests and Jon Clearys yet to come:
There was one writer in this country to whom the critics were practically always unkind but who had written, and sold, many books. His name was F. J. Thwaites and his first book The Broken Melody, which he has said initially failed on the bookstalls and which he personally promoted by selling door to door in the early Depression days, had by the mid-thirties enjoyed a quite big sale. Because of that, I'd had my eye on it for some time and finally bought the rights from Fred Thwaites. We made changes in the story; they were necessary. Thwaites, ahead of his time by thirty-five years, had his hero thrown out of college for taking dope - in the early thirties for God's sake! And a Catholic college to boot. This episode might easily have canned the whole film and we would have had no public support.
His hero was a musician who played the 'cello, which proves what I've been saying. Australian authors never thought of a screen sale. How do you get a musical climax, or any sort of climax, out of a hero who plays the 'cello? The answer is that you don't and almost in the twinkling of an eye Thwaites's man had lost his 'cello and found himself a violinist-conductor. Here again I had looked first for the big, spectacular climax and worked back.
Hall was being slightly combative. He took the same attitude to critics as the likes of Tim Burstall and David Williamson would later do.
Not all the critics were unkind to Thwaites. His first novel was well received in a 1931 review in The Sydney Morning Herald, which, while noting faults, praised the incidental staging of the action, the local colour - "highly interesting" - and the "picturesque flavouring", "As an Australian book it is to be welcomed."
Hall was comparitively much more critical of the work and its appropriateness as a plot for a film, but he was wise to be critical.
The dope angle would have killed the movie, and a hero 'cello player was also unlikely - it would have rendered his planned lavish climax a bust, as the 'cello player sat and sawed away with the instrument between his legs.
The other major change saw the conflating of the suicidal girl and the hero's love interest into the one character (in the novel the suicidal girl is killed in a hit and run accident).
The changes to the storyline rely heavily on coincidence, but were of no great weight in a story which was already deeply melodramatic. Thwaites was reported as enjoying the result, but it is likely he would have been politic even if he hadn't liked the film.
Thwaites obligingly turned up during the first few weeks of the film's premiere Sydney run to autograph copies of his book, owned by punters attending morning and afternoon screenings.
Hall explained why he was keen on the book in an interview with Philip Taylor, 25th October 1972, published in the January 1974 edition of Cinema Papers:
This was a film I'm particularly keen about still. It was made about 1938, and it was audacious. We bought the book off Frederick Thwaites because it was a runaway best seller. As a piece of literature it was not good. But it had a tremendous sale and that persuaded me to buy the book and we found we had a great deal of re-writing to do do. And I wanted to get music in. We learned how while I was in Hollywood. Clyde Cross had learned the technique of how to break up a sound track and mark it for playback. You see you were working off positive tracks then, you couldn't play it back off a tape, there was no such thing. We knew that technqiue and we took on this operetta. I commissioned Alfred Hill, the great Australian (or N.Z.) composer of that period, and his music is still strongly in vogue. He wrote the operetta section. Then we had to find people who could sing it because the girls we had couldn't sing a note. Rosalind Kennerdale was a fine actress but she was no singer, and I had to find a woman to sing for her. And the leading woman, who was an English musical comedy actress, got very upset because I wouldn't let her sing opera - after all she sang musical comedy! Alfreda Hill sang it, but she was never seen.
Hall turned the production into a lavish one by Australian standards, following a Hollywood trend towards musicals, and employing Australia's leading composer, Alfred Hill, for the job.
Instead of the slapstick of his previous pictures, he included a lengthy scene from the opera as the climax to the drama, and combined it with a traditional romance of 'down and out turned success story' composer getting together with suicidal crooner turned successful soprano.
Then to keep the mood commercial, he allowed Alec Kellaway to do some familiar comedy stylings, along with lashings of sentimentality, in the Frank Capra style.
The notion - reinforced in the advertising - was that there was something for everyone. Drama, music, romance, comedy and acting!
The studio set for the staging of the opera was extremely ambitious for an Australian production, as was the production of the music, with Hall using the new Hollywood technique of filming to playback. The stage built within the Cinesound studio pushed its capacity to the limit.
Hall recalled Lloyd Hughes, who had done a good job for him in Lovers and Luggers to play the lead role, but did not cast Shirley Ann Richards.
The excuse was offered in the press that she was taking a holiday, exhausted after doing three films in a row for Cinesound, but the reality was that Hall needed a singer for the leading role, and so actress, singer and musical comedy star Diana du Caine scored the part.
Hall wrote about the making of the film in his memoir Directed by Ken G. Hall, noting the challenge he set for himself by thinking of the big, spectacular climax for the ending first, and then working back:
...That was a deliberate policy on my part: challenge yourself and your by-now tremendously able crew with the impossible. Or, for the small economically cramped unit we were, the next-to-impossible. Have the senior department heads tell you that you've gone too far this time, are asking too much, it just can't be done. You remind them that's what they said when you wanted a bushfire that was really dangerous (The Squatter's Daughter), the falling forest, (Tall Timbers), the undersea diver fight (Lovers and Luggers), a horse falling in front of the Melbourne Cup field (Thoroughbred). What was the difference between those and a spectacular operetta climax? (I was commissioning Alfred Hill to compose this section to be made on a theatre stage we'd build inside the studio.)
As they always had done - and the best technicians and creative people are almost always pessimistic initially - they went away, thought about it and came back to say well, maybe we could get away with it but don't forget it's a big risk. And from then on they'd throw everything they had into making it work.
Of course that musical climax was a big risk and no one knew it better than I. It involved fifty members of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the full Sydney male choir, three soloists and a female chorus. We were not anything like equipped to record properly such a large assemblage. The studio itself was not suitable because it was purposely 'dead' for normal work. You need wooden surrounds, special 'bright' acoustics for music.
All American, and major studios everywhere, have specially designed and built music-recording stages. The sound engineers and mixers have remarkable control. The stage can be brought down by degrees form ultra 'live' to almost 'dead' by the manipulation of wooden baffles and other means. The soloists and chorus are all in separate glass-fronted, sound-proof cells from which they can see the conductor's beat but cannot hear the sound of the orchestra they are singing with - that is not until they put on their headphones. The sound outputs of all these people are generally recorded on separate tapes (film in my day, of course) and the whole mixed together for the final result long after all the performers have gone home to bed.
By this very broadly described method, most hi-fi records are made also, and it accounts for the remarkable balance achieved, the ability to pick out and accent at will, a voice, the orchestra, the choir, even a single instrument.
We had no such perfection. The orchestra was on wooden rostrums beneath the overhead dressing-rooms floor which acted as a ceiling. The set-up was between the generator room and the lavatories. All our music recordings were made there because it was the only 'live' area available. All that wood above and below was essential. While recordings were on, the lavatories were out of bounds to everyone and often the odd bod, who had failed to take prior precautions, stood around with pained look, biting the lower lip and crossing the legs in a vain plea for leniency.
When I heard Alfred Hill's music come back as the ABC ran Broken Melody after more than thirty years, it was as good as when it was first recorded. Which was a tribute to the people who made the impossible possible and to Arthur Smith's recording equipment which imprisoned sound on film in 1937 which was still beautiful in 1970.
We retained Lloyd Hughes to star in Broken Melody and surrounded him with a good cast. Two people were outstanding and the Press, which hailed the film as an outstanding achievement, nominated Rosalind Kennerdale, who played a temperamental French prima donna, and Alec Kellaway, who was a tramp-cum-manservant, as finds who would go far. They did not have much chance to do that. Hitler was on the march. The war was coming fast ...
3. The release:
The Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens, attended the production, and his words praising it as "a very excellent production" immediately found its way into the block advertising.
Stevens made a speech in the vestibule of the Embassy Theatre after the screening of the film:
"I am sure," he said,"that we have all greatly enjoyed this magnificent production. I am greatly interested in the production of Australian films. Mr. Ken Hall and his associates and those people who have taken such wonderful parts and acted such a wonderful play have not only done a good thing for Cinesound Productions. Ltd., but also for Australian production in general. I congratulate them."
The film was one of a proposed Cinesound slate of five pictures with a total budget of £100,000, but several never made it into production, including Hall's pet project Robbery Under Arms.
The six last Cinesound films were comedies, partly the result of internal changes to Cinesound, which saw bean counter Norman Rydge succeed Stuart Doyle as managing director. This increased the pressure on Hall to generate box office returns to cover the 'nut', the cost of running Cinesound's studios.
It was also partly due, despite denials by Cinesound, to the British government excluding Australian films from the British quota. This meant Hall had to make films which first of all worked in the domestic market, and ever since their first film, On Our Selection, turned over more £50,000 at the box office, Cinesound and Hall had been adept at manufacturing comedies that generated ticket sales.
Hall would not direct another drama, despite his preference for the form, until his last film Smithy, in 1946.
Hall understandably had a moan about all this in his memoir - he clearly didn't like Rydge, and Rydge clearly had little understanding of or sympathy for the movie game:
The Norman Rydge régime at Greater Union cut down sharply the size of the management committee, the job of which was to run the theatre operations. H. G. Hayward, chief of publicity for the circuit, and Arthur Gillespie, theatre supervisor, were displaced from it. This resulted, as might have been foreseen, in the almost immediate loss of two first-class executives, with their years of practical experience behind them, when the company was not exactly bristling with showmen of executive calibre. Hayward joined Hoyt's (ten years later he was wooed back by the same management) and Gillespie threw in his lot with Bernard Freeman as theatre supervisor of the fast-rising MGM circuit. Hayward's loss was the greater because he was a widely experienced, creative publicity director. The man who replaced him was not.
Publicity is the life's blood of showbusiness, particularly of films. It is vital and calls for men of genuine talent. In the early days publicity directors were among the highest-paid people in the industry, here and all over the world. The publicity director of a major American film production company could command well over $100,000 a year even in the thirties.
A film, any film, no matter who makes it, is generally only as good as the selling campaign ahead of it. Oh yes, there are the occasional sleepers which start slowly and build gradually by word-of-mouth goodwill. But they are rare exceptions. To weaken the publicity control by bringing in a man inexperienced in creating campaigns, beyond run-of-the-mill theatre exploitation in a minor State, especially as there were no showmen on the committee, was a bad mistake. I was deeply concerned at the effect the move would have on the sale of our film to the people who would, or would not, pay their money at the box office.
We were by now making the best films we'd ever made. They were smoother, better constructed, better acted, better direted. But if they were not properly presented, if the publicity drum was not beaten the way it should be beaten, they were in danger of not reaching the grosses we were entitled to expect.
Now, more than ever before, Doyle's dictum held true: "Don't ever make a flop'. One bad failure now could mean the sudden end of what the records show was, from an almost impossibly difficult beginning, the most sustained and most successful effort to establish a small but thriving film-production industry in Australia.
Long before Broken Melody went into production I had been in touch with George Wallace whose marvellous comedy, raucous as it often was in vaudeville and revue, always got me as it did most audiences around Australia and New Zealand. George was the people's comic, the put-upon little man, honest as the sun who, no matter what the circumstances, never could put a foot right ...
True to his showman's principles, Hall would make two films with Wallace, Let George Do It, and Gone to the Dogs, a comedy with Cecil Kellaway, Mr. Chedworth Steps Out, and bring bad Dad and Dave in Dad and Dave Come to Town, and Dad Rudd, M.P., before the second world war brought Cinesound's and his run to an end ...
4. Gough Whitlam:
In relation to matters political, the film now often attracts comments because it featured future prime minister Gough Whitlam as an uncredited extra in a night club scene.
Whitlam is in the middle of the far table:
Richard Tauber also praised the film, and in particular Alfred Hill's music, and his words were also widely circulated. (See the music credits pdf on this site for more details about the music).
5. Detailed Synopsis:
Sydney University's and Melbourne University's duelling boat crews are well clear of the others in the eights, with a superimposed race caller advising there's only a hundred yards to go.
"Yes, they're across the line and Sydney's won! What a race! The greatest in history! They'll talk about this epic struggle in the rowing camps for the next fifty years. And every oarsman will take off his hat to Ainsworth."
The crew is congratulated and the cox is given a traditional dunking in the river.
Champers and a song flows at the Embassy Club, and stroke John Ainsworth (Lloyd Hughes) likes the look of crooner Ann Brady (Diana Du Cane).
After the song finishes, the conductor leads a round of applause for the truly great stroke of the winning crew, Ainsworth and then leads him up on the stage to perform one of his own compositions. Ainsworth grabs a violin from one of the band, and begins to play a sweet semi-classical number , with the piano and others joining in (one listener notes he's heard Ainsworth's string quartet at the conservatorium).
After finishing to a round of applause, Ainsworth invites Ann Brady (Diana Du Cane) to dance, making a friend of the management, Mr Bullman (Ronald Whelan), very upset.
Ainsworth starts talking about Ann he's known - like Queen Anne - and decides to dub Brady Raggedy Ann after a doll his kid sister owned. "Gee, I'm brilliant tonight, must be the champagne."
Bullman tells lackey club manager Francois to break it up, but not before Ainsworth has planted a kiss firmly on the lips of the now reluctant Brady.
When Bullman comes up to Ainsworth to tell him to beat it, Ainsworth says Ann hasn't listened to the gypsy's warning and calls Bullman "diabetes" - "the original sugar daddy" - and a punch up ensues, with everyone joining in, and Francois hysterical on the phone calling for help.
The next day a newspaper announces the students in the nightclub riot have been expelled from university and Nibs Ainsworth (June Munro) at home in the family sheep station at Queanbeyan tears up the newspaper in exasperation.
Ainsworth arrives by car, with father Michael Ainsworth (Harold Meade) yet to hear of his son's disgrace, and Nibs proposes a good dinner and a little performance on violin and piano before breaking the news.
Nibs and friend Esther leave the room and father Michael tells son John that he inherited two things from his mother - her eyes and her musical talent, as John plays a tune much loved by the departed wife and mother.
Ainsworth mentions the critics were kind about the conservatorium show, and that he's interested in music more than anything else, but his father scoffs that music's alright, but it isn't a career. He suggests Ainsworth start in as an overseer on the property right away.
His dad mentions Esther Baldwin as a likely match. Ainsworth says he doesn't particularly like her, but his dad says he wants him to marry her. Ainsworth's startled, but his father says she comes from a good family, she'll have money some day and John's place is on the land. "Yes, a lifetime of pandering to sheep"
Sheep sent him to King's School and paid for his university fees, his father notes.
"Pity they did, culture's not wanted on the land, is that it?
"Culture? Your grandfather thought he wanted culture. He went all the way to England, to Cambridge University to get it, and after a year of debauchery, he was sacked by the authorities for a drunken frolic in a gambling house."
That's news to Ainsworth: "I never heard that before."
"It isn't the sort of thing I'd gossip about. If he'd pandered to sheep, as you call it, this property wouldn't now be saddled with a load of debt. His legacy to me."
Ainsworth, musing: "So it happened to him too …hmph, that's funny."
"Oh damn funny."
"Dad, it's time I told you the truth. History has a habit of repeating itself. What happened to grandfather has happened to me."
"What do you mean?"
"They sacked me yesterday. I've been sent down from the university."
"It's true. I should have told you sooner."
"So that's why you're back. Expelled. What for?"
"Oh nothing really. A bit of a brawl in a cabaret. After all, it was boat race night …"
"A drunkard can always find excuses."
"I'm not a drunkard."
"A man doesn't get expelled for nothing."
"I'm sorry Dad."
"Sorry? You come sneaking back here, with a pack of lies about your health. You can pander to your own rotten vices, but you can't pander to sheep. And yet you can spend the money that they bring you on companions as rotten as yourself … "
"Now look here Dad."
"Oh the meanest labourer I employ is twice the man that you are! Now get out of my sight! Get Out!!"
Ainsworth turns to leave, and we cut to images of Sydney and Martin Place and Ainsworth wandering amongst the crowds as the months on a calendar and time fly by, and we hear in voice over, the news of a depression likely to last years. No work today or tomorrow.
Ainsworth goes for a drink in the pub with Bill and Ted Ross and a down and out Joe Larkin (Alec Kellaway) wanders in selling shoe laces. Ainsworth buys a pair - might come in handy to hang himself.
Bill is dismissive - give these fellas an inch and they take a mile - but Ainsworth is sympathetic - "if you fellas took as many knocks in a month as he does in a day, you'd both lie down and die."
"Hmm, boosting the Bolshies now eh," says a disapproving Ted, asking Bill what time it is, and that's when Bill discovers that the bum has fingered his watch.
Ted makes a joke hoping that Ainsworth lands something before his ticket runs out … the pawn ticket on the watch. Ainsworth reacts badly, and chests Ted, but when told it was a joke, has to back down and apologise. "Six months ago, I would have laughed too. Cheerio."
Out on the street John comes across Larkin again, leaning against the pub wall. Larkin asks "down on your luck matey?"
Ainsworth: "Do I look like it?"
Larkin: "Yeah, I might be able to do you a bit of good. Suppose you and I's to work together?"
Ainsworth: "How come?"
Larkin: "Feel your pocket."
Ainsworth discovers Bill's watch and Larkin laughs.
"Pickpocket eh", says Ainsworth. "Lift we called it," laughs Larkin. "I placed it on to you in case the cove missed it before I got clear."
He proposes a deal - what he passes on to Ainsworth they split fifty fifty.
Ainsworth asks him if he's got to be a thief. What about the dole?
Larkin: "The dole? (laughing) Blimey, guvnor, if I went down there, I'd get a month in the pen …"
Ainsworth suggests after he'd done his month, he'd be free - free in here, tapping his chest - and Larkin wonders if he happens to belong to the Salvation Army.
"No, the unemployed Army."
"The unemployed Army. I've seen that mob. Headquarters the Domain, Woolloomooloo. When you come down, call out Joe Larkin, that's me."
"You live there?"
"Yes, double fronted cave, with cold water turned on… when it rains. Sleep out in any weather, and a bath supplied by the Harbour Trust."
Right, says Ainsworth, but he still has a little room rent left, "so long".
"So long, I'll be seeing ya," says Larkin, sucking on his pipe.
Later, night, and an unshaven, bedraggled Ainsworth is walking down to the Domain, calling out for Joe Larkin. Some bums check him out, then point him over to Larkin's cave, right on the harbour, with a view of the bridge.
"Stone the crows," says Larkin as he sees the worn out man before him. "It's the bloke."
"Well, you said you'd be seeing me," says Ainsworth. "Didn't ya?"
Next morning after a bath in the world's most beautiful harbour - keeping clean is a hobby of his - Ainsworth is feeling better and sets down to breakfast with Larkin
"You'll get out of that," jokes Larkin, shivering. "I fell in once."
Ainsworth says he's glad Larkin didn't take his advice and fall into jail, but when he says Larkin's no crook, Larkin's indignant, saying he's a big shot in the crime world.
"Now don't you turn on me guv'nor… Do you know, the cop that takes me to Darlinghurst will be made a sergeant, right away, too right he will."
The chat turns to the shoelace trade and alcohol - Larkin doesn't touch the stuff, "makes your hand tremble"
Ainsworth: "I'm a failure anyway Joe. For six months I walked this city looking for a job. I had a trained mind to sell, great public school and a state university wasn't enough to get me the basic wage. The depression is just an excuse to starve a man."
Larkin apologises for the lack of eggs in the meal, but promises they'll eat well that night if they do business during the day. Trouble is, his fingers are a bit stiff. "Must be artist's cramp," he says, flexing his fingers.
Ainsworth heads off with his portmanteau of shoe laces.
That night a drunken Ainsworth confesses to a dog in the street that he's been thrown out of the pub. "Now what do you think of that, eh? Joe Ainsworth, King's school, Sydney University, old school tie and all that, gets thrown out of a pub just the same. So news is made."
The dog sits up to beg, Ainsworth asks it for a match, and then hears a forlorn ship's horn in the harbour. "Hear that? Ships that pass in the night. Good night dog."
The dog walks alongside him.
Cut to a woman by the railing under Sydney Harbour bridge. She hears a whistle and ducks behind the sandstone, then re-emerges to fling herself into the water.
As she climbs up the lamp post to get over the railing, a figure runs in and grabs her and pulls her back down.
It's Ainsworth, and he discovers he's saved a sobbing Ann Brady, and introduces himself. She explains she lost her job and no one would employ her. "I'd rather go that way than starve to death."
Ainsworth says life hasn't finished with her yet, tomorrow she might be gay. "Remember that Ann, there's always a tomorrow."
He tells her she's coming with him tonight, and so is his new dog, which he dubs "Man Friday."
"Every dog has his day."
"His lucky day. Maybe mine too," says Ann, gazing soulfully into Ainsworth's eyes.
Ainsworth laughs and taps her on the shoulder: "Now I know you're cured. What you need is food, then you'll be alright (gesturing). Lady Ann, amid yon twinkling lights lies my Castle, and some stewed rabbit, I hope." (He extends his arm to her, she takes it and they head off to the cave).
Larkin is singing "take a pair of sparkling eyes" as John and Ann tuck into the food, and Man Friday eats the scraps.
Ainsworth: "What do you think of it all Joe?
Larkin: "Well they say dames is bad luck, but this one might be alright. Still, one never knows, does one ..."
Ainsworth: "Is the Lady Ann's bedchamber ready?"
Larkin: "It's as cosy as the Ritz and just as private."
Ainsworth: "If you want anything Raggedy, just ring for it… oh by the way, we have a bell, haven't we Joseph?"
Larkin: "I forgot to tell you, me Lord. It's the maid's night orff."
Ainsworth: "Tch, tch, tch, oh that's too bad …(as Ann sheds a tear) …
Why Raggedy, you're crying …"
Larkin (putting a hand on her shoulder): "We ain't people."
Ainsworth: "Of course not, we're John, Joe and Raggedy Ann, and the world's our oyster."
Larkin: "Yes and oysters are two bob a dozen."
Ainsworth: "Small world … look up there (pointing to the sky) …
Larkin: "Blooming great stars … I hope they stay there."
Ainsworth: "Don't worry, they're fixed there, so men will have something to reach for …"
Brady: "And women?"
Ainsworth: "Tomorrow Raggedy, I'll bring you one."
Larkin: "Stay down here guvnor, it's not so far to fall."
Ainsworth: "We'll never fall again."
Larkin: "Too right we won't. There ain't no place."
(They laugh, then Ainsworth turns serious).
Ainsworth: "By jove, I thought of something. My violin. If I can persuade my late landlady to give it back to me, then musically this city will be put on the map tomorrow… you can go around with the hat Joe …"
Larkin: "It'll have to be yours guvnor. Mine's just a hole with a rim round it."
(They laugh, and the next shot is of Ainsworth playing the violin outside the pub).
John scores copper coins with his playing, which he's counting as Ann enters.
Ainsworth: "Stop! If ever I write an opera, that's just how the world will see you, coming down those steps with an armful of flowers …"
Brady: "You will write an opera John, some day …how's business today?"
Ainsworth: "From the musical public of this city, I have extracted the sum of three shillings and eight pence hapenny, which considering I'm an artist of unknown ability, is not bad."
Brady (showing off a button): " Hmm, you've forgotten the button that was in the hat. I'll sow it on your coat."
Ainsworth: "Poor price to pay for a Bach fugue, or a Beethoven sonata."
Brady: "A lot depends on a button."
Ainsworth: "Quite right. The one debt man owes to society is to keep his pants up."
Brady (laughing): "You're very brave John."
Ainsworth: "Me brave? (laughs) That's funny."
Brady: "The way you laugh..."
Ainsworth: "Oh that's a secret Raggedy. Joe taught me. Great man Joe, by the way, where is he?"
While making the tea, Ann discovers a note from Joe saying he'll be gorn a month and not to wate up for him.
Ainsworth: "Poor Joe. No, not poor Joe! Rich Joe."
Brady: "Where is he John?"
Ainsworth: "He's gone to jail, Raggedy."
Brady: "To jail?"
Ainsworth: "He's paying a debt to society."
Brady: "But what for?"
Ainsworth: "Well, that's a long story … (turning to look at her) By jove, that means that you and I'll be living here alone …"
Brady: "Well …"
Ainsworth: "Well, what will people think?"
Brady: "What does it matter? I wouldn't be living at all John except for you …"
Ainsworth: "Ann Brady, promise me you'll never speak of that again."
Brady: "I promise… poor Joe, I miss him."
Cut to Larkin going up to a copper and inviting him to take a Captain Cook at him, and revealing that he's Joe the Dip, but the cop says he's never seen his ugly mug before, and never heard of him.
"What, never heard of Joe the Dip? Strewth, how long you been in the force?"
The cop tells him to hop it, he's not interested, he's no crook.
"What, I'm no crook? Here, I swiped a lady's handbag down at Darlinghurst, where does that get me?"
"If you're lucky, a tuppenny ride in the bus."
Larkin: "I see, I see. One law for the rich and one for the poor. If I was an aristocrat from Potts Point, you'd soon put me in wouldn't yer?"
Cop: "Too right."
Larkin: "What's jails for anyhow? Just for blokes as got hinfluence?"
The cop taps him on the chest and ambles off: "So long, see you in the condemned cell."
Larkin (after him): "Ah, ah, and I won't have been the first of the family to have bin there either. Call yourself a cop! Next time I come I'll bring the blinkin' p'lice notice with me. I'd like to see your birth certificate. You creep." (He blows a huge raspberry at the absent copper and ducks off screen).
In the cave, Ann sows the button on the coat, while John sleeps and then she drapes the coat over his figure. She tenderly strokes his forehead then plants a kiss on it.
He wakes and says he thought he was dreaming … dreaming that there was one person in the world who didn't think he was a failure.
Ann: "Poverty isn't failure John."
"Would you marry me Raggedy? One day … when we scrape the mud off our shoes?"
"I'd wait for you forever John."
Larkin arrives in the cave to discreetly cough and break up the scene.
"Hello bloke and bloke-ess."
He explains the cops wouldn't have him. "Should have brought a letter from me Member of Parliament."
Ainsworth breaks into the tune for Botany Bay on his fiddle, then another tune, and the tune carries us outside, to two wealthy people sitting in a car harbourside near the cave.
The man Sam (Harry Abdy) keeps offering gifts - fur coat, diamonds - while the woman Bella (Rita Paunceford) wants a wedding ring. Eventually, the man's irritated by the music: "It's like a poultice, ain't it? It draws the soul out of you."
The woman explains she won't accept gifts from a single man, as Sam incredulously asks, "Would you marry me Bella?"
"Yes Sam, so that's settled."
"But I ain't said nothing yet."
"Well a nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse."
"Yes, but you ain't no blind horse."
"No, and you're not getting anything on the nod."
"And if that damned music had only been a mouth organ, I was safe."
"Well I'm getting out to see who it is, and you're coming to."
The writers even work in a blonde joke for the pair:
"And they say blondes is dumb."
"But I wasn't always blonde, duckie."
Ainsworth finishes playing his composition, named in honour of Raggedy Ann, for the Domain bums who've clustered in the cave to listen, as the two rich people arrive.
Larkin: "Spare me days, if it ain't the Queen of Sheba and Solomon hisself."
Some jokes follow - park it on this Countess, are you people batching?, just an old Woollomooloo custom, a bit drafty ain't it?, oh we couldn't bear to close the French winders, and then Bella realises they've busted into a private party.
Sam: Be yourself Bella, this is what they call downs and outs.
Ainsworth: Down, but not out.
Sam: Ah, depends how you count.
Bella has an idea. Sam should book Ainsworth for the cafe, and after some reluctance, Sam hits on the notion of presenting him as the Vagabond Violinist.
"You know, I discovered more talent than C. B. Cochrane… of course in a smaller way …but I can't promise ya nothing ..." (wiki impresario Cochrane here).
Sam hands over a card and makes a time for 10 am the next morning.
Ainsworth: "Didn't I tell you, it's started. We're rising, John, Joe and Raggedy Ann. Three against the world (he looks up at the night sky) … look at those stars. They're not so very far away after all …"
Cut to John performing at The Red Hat, and then after applause to the office where a French entrepreneur Mon. Jules de Latanac (scriptwriter Frank Harvey) is admiring an Ainsworth Nocturne and soon enough is inviting John to London.
John is excited but when entrepreneur Jules refuses to take a crooner - a crooner can never be good - John refuses to go without her.
John tells him the story of his past three months in explanation of why he won't go without her - as we cut to Bella and Ann talking.
The Frenchman relents and says he can have his Raggedy after all.
It's like the Arabian nightmares, says Sam, Bella will get the shock of her life.
But when Jules tells Bella, she realises what she's done. She's persuaded Ann to give up her claim on John, so he can realise his dreams - and she sinks into the chaise longue and asks for a drink, saying she really thinks she is blonde …
When John goes in search of Raggedy, he steps into an empty flat, and then picks up a farewell 'Dear John' note: "The stars were too far away after all."
Meanwhile, down at the farm, Nibs is opening a letter from John asking her to be at the wharf to see him and Joe sail on the Orcades.
Dockside and streamers signal the departure of the ship, as the cop intercepts a flash-suited Joe, and says he's seen him before. Never, says Joe, but the copper insists that he told him he was Joe the Dip. Never. Asked to lock him up? Never. Told him his old man was hanged? Never.
The routine concludes with the copper telling him to get moving and never come back. Joe: Never!
John gets Nibs to promise she won't tell dad what he's doing. He'll stay in touch, and see her when he gets back. Lost in the crowd, dog in arms, Ann watches him go.
Shots of London icons tell us it's London, and now Joe has slipped into the role of a Cockney man servant, helping Ainsworth get dressed.
A London maid (Letty Craydon) turns up sniffing at Joe and calling him "Popeye" and "Milky". Mystified, Joe asks her what it means. "Blinds when they aren't set", says the sniffy maid.
Jules takes John off to see a tempestuous rich prima donna, Madame Le Lange (Rosalind Kennerdale) who can make his career.
John fails to kiss her hand in the Continental style, and then Madame searches for her one memory of Australie, a singer who sang "quite well" - "ah, yes, Melba".
She makes sure he doesn't eat garlic, her last conductor made her throw up. "Your English language, so expressive … Shakespeare …"
Then she says she will hear John that night, the three of them will dine together. Eight o'clock? "Nine o'clock, you savage!"
As entrepreneur Jules departs, Madame tells John "You interest me very much" and asks him if he has clothes for dinner. Yes, of course, he says. "That is good. I like only the nice things, or else life is ugly. Don't forget. I like only nice things …"
Later they get down to business - John jokes that perhaps it's the sunshine that makes Australians musical and good singers, and Madame admits she knew Melba, but it's not always wise to talk about one prima donna to another.
In the end, Madame invites John to write an opera for her, saying she likes him, and a montage takes over, with dates and posters and European street scenes and Madame singing, and applauding crowds, and John conducting under the moniker John Hilton, and working on compositions, until we come to the title page of "Lost Paradise", an opera in four acts by John Hilton. Then the montage shows the world applauding for "Lost Paradise", and the opera landing at Covent Garden.
Over dinner Jules tells the successful pair that he has an offer for a six month tour of Australia and New Zealand. John is doubtful, but Joe whispers in his ear to think of Bondi Beach and being in time for the Melbourne cup.
Jules leaves and Madame seizes the moment to hit on John with talk of love, discovering he's been faithful to his lost love, even though he was jilted. He has been faithful to a shadow - she can give him fortune, love, glamour, all the world will be their stage.
Just then he reveals he finished a new opera yesterday, but the part is not hers. It was written for someone simpler, someone without glamour.
The name of the work she cannot play is "A Broken Melody".
Naturally the Madame is outraged and bungs on a do about a part being written she cannot play. Joe intrudes with a cable, from Nibs, saying his father is very ill and John should come if he can.
John tells Joe to ring Jules saying he accepts the Australian offer. Madame is excited she can go to Australie to see the jackaroo and such like, and John says after all she can play the part, what does it matter. "I assure you, it does matter, silly boy," says Madame, leaning back. "You may kiss me." He plants a peck on her forehead. "Not there, stupid," she says, dragging him into a clinch and as much of a lip kiss as the censor allowed in the 1930s.
A montage later, John is asking Nibs if his father has any idea that John Hilton is John Ainsworth, and she says no, he's getting old and is worried he'll lose the place to the banks. John gives Nibs two tickets to the opera, and she can bring anyone but father. She's to leave him to John.
At the bank, dad Michael is being told he's lost the property and he should given the new owner every assistance. He says he'll do what's right, but he staggers as he leaves. Outside as he meets Nibs, he collapses to the pavement … just as Joe and Ann coincidentally turn up at the scene at the same time.
"Stone the crows if it ain't Raggedy," says Joe when they recognise one another.
They catch up over tea and sandwiches, Ann learns of John Hilton, and says Man Friday has had three Pomeranians. "Blimey, I'll never trust a dog again," says Joe.
Ann reveals she's had three terms at the Conservatorium and been studying under an important conductor. She's not a crooner anymore, she's studying opera …
Ann discovers John isn't married and never talks about the old days, but Joe also reveals that The Broken Melody is about her.
Joe has an idea and they catch a cab, but as they arrive, John bursts out of the house, grabs the cab, and heads off to Sydney hospital, and then Ann demands Joe promise not to tell John that he found her, not until she tells him he can. Joe reluctantly promises - she says she wants to tell him in her own way.
Joe has another idea and hails another cab.
Meanwhile, in hospital, John learns that his dad is very ill, must be kept quiet and can't see him, and John regrets not telling his father a fortnight ago, that the property isn't being sold to a stranger, but to him. "I'm the stranger."
Nibs is astonished and wonders why he didn't tell them. "Pride, Nibs, silly Pride." John says he wanted to come back with the property on a plate and hand it to his father. It was praise he wanted, not forgiveness. "If anything happens, I'll never forgive myself."
Meanwhile, Joe is begging Jules to let the show go on, but Jules flat out refuses. They'll close the theatre because people won't come to hear the understudy.
Joe explains the girl he's got is the one the opera was written for.
"Raggedy Ann herself!"
"What, that girl? But she left him," says Jules, and then there's the business of her being a crooner. Mon dieu, a crooner in an opera!
Jules reluctantly allows Joe to bring her in so he can look at her.
When he learns her name is Jones, he expostulates - who's ever heard of a diva called Jones?
But when Ann arrives, Jules looks her over, then demands she sing a scale from F. Again, half a tone higher. Not very bad, he decides, she can be the understudy, as Madame's voice drifts in, and Jules goes into a kind of ecstasy, saying with that voice you can conquer kings.
But Madame is having a problem with the associate conductor not following her voice, and she bungs on a do, while the tenor (Lionello Cecil) waits for the eruption to subside and Jules arrives to sooth her, explaining John's father is very ill in the hospital.
But after initial success quieting Madame down, another tantrum and a smashed plate follows.
Later, John is worried about his dad, and no longer interested in the success of the opera. He starts to reminisce about the night he brought Raggedy Ann home - Joe remembers he was stewing a rabbit, and John recalls it was three against the world.
Jules advises John he needs a woman in his life, but John says he lost his woman before he realised he'd found her. Say the word guvnor and I'll bring her back again, Joe offers, but John says no. "If Raggedy wants to come back, she'll come back in her own way."
Jules tells them the great moment is arriving and they must go to the theatre, but the phone rings. It's Nibs, with the news daddy has regained consciousness, but he's terribly weak.
John tells Jules to put the deputy in the chair and races to the hospital.
Madame is furious - no one dies at eight o'clock, and, besides, the deputy director "waves his arms like a traffic cop."
Nibs is worried the sight of John might kill their father, but John hits on a scheme, as the opera wends its way into the second act, and we pause for a duet between Madame and the tenor.
At the interval, Madame is furious. The tenor sings like a pig, the conductor drops his baton, and so on … she cannot finish the opera, for her there is no last act. She flings the dress for the last act at Jules, and pushes him out of her dressing room and slams the door.
Nibs is with her father in his hospital bed. He opens his eyes as he hears the sounds of a violin wafting through the open door… it's the tune we heard much earlier, the one his wife, John's mother, loved so much.
"Who is it"? asks the father, and as the tune finishes, in steps John. "My boy, I'm glad you came back to me."
Jules doesn't know what to do, but Joe takes the dress to give to the understudy, just as John arrives with the news that his father is going to live. Everything is fine, but Jules explains everything is wrong. Henriette will not sing!
John knocks on the dressing room door but Henriette says she will not sing for him or anyone and there's the sound of more things smashing.
All that's left is the understudy, Annie Jones. Impossible, says John.
John rushes to see the understudy, but she won't let him in, she's dressing.
Impossible says John, they must close the theatre, but Jules says it will mean ruin, and then an angelic voice floats out from the understudy's dressing room.
John is entranced, Jules is relieved, and Henriette threatened. Joe bursts into Henriette's dressing room, throws out the maid, locks the door and stands guard, as Henriette learns it's the understudy's voice. She has decided she will perform, but Joe won't let her out - he's decided she won't sing.
She threatens to scream and call for help, and he applies a gag to her mouth.
Jules fronts the audience to explain why Henriette's a no show - her voice is fatigued, she cannot even speak - while Joe sits with the gagged and bound prima donna in her dressing room. Jules craves the audience's indulgence for the understudy.
John takes the podium, and the final act begins. The tenor starts off and then the understudy has her moment, walking down the steps with flowers in hand as John envisioned much earlier in the film. Singing with the tenor standing below, after the first duet's over, Ann moves further down the steps and that's when John realises who it is, and almost forgets to conduct, as she addresses her big solo to her sweetheart conductor.
The ensemble joins in for the big finish, and naturally the result's a raging success.
Back in the dressing room, Jules advises the bound and gagged prima donna that at last he has the coouurraggge to speak to her as he wishes - she is a cruel and mean and selfish hussy, with the manners of a fish wife. She talks too much and she has no brains.
"But, will you marry me? Answer me, will you marry me?"
Henriette gestures to her bonds, and Jules begs her pardon and unties her.
She slaps him across the face, saying that is for his impudence, but for his courage, she gives him this, and leans up to kiss him.
Ann calls John on to the stage, and they kiss, and the curtains open, catching them in the act. The audience laughs, the choir laughs and heads off stage, and we cut to close up as Ann says "John Hilton, meet Annie Jones", and he says "No, Raggedy Ann meet John Ainsworth … forever", and they kiss, and from the side of the stage Joe applauds, "Am I any good?", kissing one of the chorus, and getting a slap to his face for his pains, and then it's back to the close up for the rest of the kiss, followed by the end title.