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Trottie True (1948)

Courtesy of ITV Global Entertainment Ltd

Main image of Trottie True (1948)
35mm, 96 min, colour
DirectorBrian Desmond Hurst
Production CompanyTwo Cities Films
ProducerHugh Stewart
ScreenplayC. Denis Freeman
From the novel byCaryl Brahms
 S.J. Simon
CinematographyHarry Waxman
MusicBenjamin Frankel
SongsCarroll Gibbons

Cast: Jean Kent (Trottie True); James Donald (Lord Digby Landon); Hugh Sinclair (Maurice Beckenham); Lana Morris (Bouncie Barrington); Andrew Crawford (Sid Skinner); Bill Owen (Joe Jugg); Hattie Jacques (Daisy Delaware)

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In 1900, a titled lady thinks back to her past - as 'Great Little Trottie' of the music halls and star of the Gaiety Theatre, and her various romantic encounters, one of which which led to her present position as Lady Wellwater.

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Based on a popular 1946 novel, Trottie True can be related to the Victorian music-hall world of Champagne Charlie (d. Alberto Cavalcanti, 1944) and Gaiety George (d. George King, 1946), set against the background of the Gaiety 'musical comedy' shows.

From the opening credits (over a red heart emblem) the central question is evident: who will win the heart of Trottie? The candidates are obsessed balloonist Sid Skinner; serious-minded aristocrat Lord Digby Landon; 'bounder' Maurice Breckenham; backer of Gaiety Shows Arthur Briggs and fellow artiste Joe Jugg, but morose Digby and dull balloonist Sid are the main contenders. Whereas Trottie is a spirited gal, vivacious and lively, these men are a rather dull bunch, lacking in any genuine gaiety or charm, so Jean Kent is able to shine with her central star performance; not surprisingly, this was her favourite film role.

The early vitality of the Bedford music-hall scene is not maintained, and a major omission is the lack of a fully staged Gaiety number, especially as in 1948 there were still survivors around familiar with the original stagings. But Rank were wary of funding lavish musicals following the 'disaster' of London Town (d. Wesley Ruggles, 1946) and Jean Kent even had a struggle to keep her songs in the film. The music score, by Benjamin Frankel, is full of old world charm with a delightful opening 'trot' theme and waltzes such as the wistful 'Dreaming', composed in 1911 by English 'waltz king' Archibald Joyce, so evocative of the Edwardian era.

There is much to enjoy in Trottie True, but these are mainly surface pleasures. Both art direction and colour are first class, with much eye candy in colour and form, art direction, and detail in costumes and millinery. Harry Waxman's cinematography nicely differentiates the emotional temperatures of the True family home, with its warm, dark colours, and the Wellwater stately pile, in cold, light blues. Visual treats include an early close-up of a bird in a gilded cage (bride as trophy?), Gaiety Girls travelling to a picnic in their white dresses and finery, Bouncie's dressing room bedecked with flowers, and a lavish servant's ball. British 1940s Technicolor films offer an abundance of visual pleasures, especially when lovingly restored by the National Film Archive. Trottie True is not among the best known, but comes beautifully packaged, gift wrapped with all the trimmings.

Roger Philip Mellor

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Video Clips
1. Bedford music hall (2:58)
2. Joe and Daisy (1:51)
3. Lady Wellwater entertains (6:40)
Production stills
Monthly Film Bulletin review
Champagne Charlie (1944)
Carmichael, Ian (1920-2010)
Hambling, Gerry (1926-)
Jacques, Hattie (1922-1980)
Kalmus, Natalie (1887-1965)
Kemplen, Ralph (1912-2004)
Lee, Christopher (1922-)
Moore, Roger (1927-)
Waxman, Harry (1912-1984)
Two Cities Films
Film and Music Hall