They Shall Have Music

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They Shall Have Music
They Shall Have Music VideoCover.png
Directed by Archie Mayo
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn
Written by Irma von Cube
John Howard Lawson
Starring Jascha Heifetz
Joel McCrea
Andrea Leeds
Gene Reynolds
Distributed by United Artists
Release date
  • July 26, 1939 (1939-07-26)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States

They Shall Have Music is a 1939 musical film directed by Archie Mayo and starring famed violinist Jascha Heifetz (as himself), Joel McCrea, Andrea Leeds, and Gene Reynolds. The screenplay concerns a young runaway finds his purpose in life after hearing Heifetz play, and the kindly master of a music school in financial difficulty takes him in.

Archie Mayo Movie director and stage actor

Archibald L. "Archie" Mayo was a film director, screenwriter and actor.

Jascha Heifetz Russian-American violinist

Jascha Heifetz was a Russian-American violinist. Many consider him to be the greatest violinist of all time. Born in Vilna (Vilnius), he moved as a teenager to the United States, where his Carnegie Hall debut was rapturously received. He was a virtuoso since childhood—Fritz Kreisler, another leading violinist of the twentieth century, said on hearing Heifetz's debut, "We might as well take our fiddles and break them across our knees."

Joel McCrea American actor

Joel Albert McCrea was an American actor whose career spanned almost five decades and appeared in over 100 films. These films include Alfred Hitchcock's espionage thriller Foreign Correspondent (1940), Preston Sturges' comedy classics Sullivan's Travels (1941), and The Palm Beach Story (1942), the romance film Bird of Paradise (1932), the adventure classic The Most Dangerous Game (1932), Gregory La Cava's bawdy comedy Bed of Roses (1933), George Stevens' romantic comedy The More the Merrier (1943), William Wyler's These Three, Come and Get It and Dead End (1937), Howard Hawks' Barbary Coast (1935), and a number of western films, including Wichita (1955) as Wyatt Earp and Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country (1962), opposite Randolph Scott.



Youngster Frankie (Gene Reynolds) and his small gang commit petty crimes in their New York City tenement neighborhood, such as stealing bicycles and taking money from other boys. One of those boys, Willy (Tommy Kelly), complains to his father about this, who takes the matter to Frankie's mother (Marjorie Main) and stepfather (Arthur Hohl). Frankie finds an old violin in his basement which he used to play when his father was around. He then pawns it to get some money to put in the gang's treasury.

Tommy Kelly (actor) actor from the United States

Thomas Francis Kelly professionally known as Tommy Kelly was an American child actor. He played the title role in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in 1938 based on Mark Twain's novel of the same name.

Marjorie Main actress

Marjorie Main was the stage name of Mary Tomlinson, who was an American character actress and singer of the Classical Hollywood period, best known as a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract player in the 1940s and 1950s, and for her role as Ma Kettle in ten Ma and Pa Kettle movies. Main started her career in vaudeville and theatre and appeared in films classics, such as Dead End (1937), Dark Command (1940), The Shepherd of the Hills (1941), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), and Friendly Persuasion (1956).

Arthur Hohl American actor

Arthur Hohl was an American stage and motion-picture character actor. He was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and began appearing in films in the early 1920s. He played a great number of villainous or mildly larcenous roles, although his screen roles usually were small, but he also played a few sympathetic characters.

One day, Frankie and his friend "Limey" (Terry Kilburn) hide from the police in the lobby of a concert hall. When a couple has an argument, the man disgustedly throws away his tickets. Unable to scalp them, the boys decide to attend the concert. Frankie is entranced by the virtuoso performance of Jascha Heifetz. Later, he sees his violin in the window of a local pawn shop, and decides he wants it back. Frankie steals his little gang's stash of spare change to buy the violin, which he handles with aplomb back in his mother's kitchen. His stepfather comes home and believes Frankie stole it, smashes the instrument, and decides to pack him off to reform school. Frankie immediately runs away, putting his shoe shine gear into the empty violin case as his only possession.

Terry Kilburn actor

Terence E. Kilburn, known for his acting work prior to 1953 as Terry Kilburn, is an English-American actor. Born in London, he moved to Hollywood in the U.S. at the age of 10, and is best known for his roles as a child actor, in films such as A Christmas Carol (1938) and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) in the late 1930s and the early 1940s.

Ticket resale act of reselling tickets for admission to events

Ticket resale is the act of reselling tickets for admission to events. Tickets are bought from licensed sellers and are then sold for a price determined by the individual or company in possession of the tickets. Tickets sold through secondary sources may be sold for less or more than their face value depending on demand, which tends to vary as the event date approaches. When the supply of tickets for a given event available through authorized ticket sellers is depleted, the event is considered "sold out", generally increasing the market value for any tickets on offer through secondary sellers. Ticket resale is common in both sporting and musical events.

Reform school

A reform school was a penal institution, generally for teenagers mainly operating between 1830 and 1900. In the United Kingdom and its colonies reformatories commonly called reform schools were set up from 1854 onwards for youngsters who were convicted of a crime as an alternative to an adult prison. In parallel, "Industrial schools" were set up for vagrants and children needing protection. Both were 'certified' by the government from 1857, and in 1932 the systems merged and both were 'approved' and became approved schools.

He stumbles upon a music school for the poor, founded by Professor Lawson (Walter Brennan). Lawson discovers that Frankie has perfect pitch and instantly enrolls the boy. That night, Frankie sneaks into the basement to sleep, but Lawson finds him. After hearing his story, he lets Frankie stay.

Walter Brennan American actor

Walter Andrew Brennan was an American actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1936, 1938, and 1940, making him one of only three male actors to win three Academy Awards.

Absolute pitch (AP), often called perfect pitch, is a rare ability of a person to identify or re-create a given musical note without the benefit of a reference tone. AP can be demonstrated via linguistic labeling, auditory imagery, or sensorimotor responses. For example, an AP possessor can accurately reproduce a heard tone on a musical instrument without "hunting" for the correct pitch. The frequency of AP in the general population is not known. The assumed occurrence of less than 1:10,000 is widely reported, but it is not supported by evidence. However, a review of more recent and international studies indicates prevalence of at least 4% amongst music students.

Unbeknownst to Lawson, the school (which does not require tuition fees) is in financial trouble. The school's sponsor has died, and bills have gone unpaid for months. All of the musical instruments are rented from a stingy music store owner ironically named Mr. Flower (Porter Hall). Flower assigns one of his clerks, Peter (Joel McCrea), to collect payment, but Peter's girlfriend is Lawson's daughter, Ann (Andrea Leeds), so he does nothing. When Flower finds out, he fires Peter and goes to confront Ann.

Porter Hall American actor

Clifford Porter Hall was an American character actor known for appearing in a number of films in the 1930s and 1940s. Hall typically played villains or comedic incompetent characters.

Andrea Leeds American film actress

Andrea Leeds was an American film actress. A popular supporting player of the late 1930s, Leeds was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Stage Door (1937). She was progressing to leading roles, when she retired from acting following her marriage in 1939, and was later a successful horse breeder.

Frankie overhears Peter and Ann discussing the situation, and organizes a street band with some of the other students to raise money. They set up right next to a concert hall where, according to clever Frankie, "people will like us." When Jascha Heifetz comes out of the hall, Frankie recognizes him and tells him about the school and the fund raising concert they have scheduled. Heifetz is impressed with Frankie and the story and offers to send a film of himself playing. Later, when Flower and the other creditors show up to collect payment, they get the mistaken impression that Heifetz is the school's new sponsor. Peter plays along to buy time, and even claims that the violinist will perform at the school's upcoming concert.

Suspicious, Flower goes to see Heifetz and discovers the truth. Limey and the rest of Frankie's old gang try to persuade Heifetz to come, but they are turned away without seeing him. Limey steals Heifetz's Stradivarius violin as a present for Frankie, unaware of its great value. When Frankie tries to return it, he is detained by the police but refuses to talk to anyone but Heifetz. When Heifetz shows up at the police station to collect his instrument, Frankie is able to persuade him to perform at the concert. Heifetz plays to Flower and a rapt audience of the parents of the children, and it appears that the school will now be sponsored by Heifetz.

Stradivarius String instruments built by the Italian family Stradivari, particularly Antonio Stradivari

A Stradivarius is one of the violins, violas, cellos and other string instruments built by members of the Italian family Stradivari, particularly Antonio Stradivari, during the 17th and 18th centuries. According to their reputation, the quality of their sound has defied attempts to explain or equal it, though this belief is disputed. The fame of Stradivarius instruments is widespread, appearing in numerous works of fiction.


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