Trottie True

Trottie True is a 1949 British musical comedy film directed by Brian Desmond Hurst and starring Jean Kent, James Donald and Hugh Sinclair.[1] It was known as The Gay Lady in the US, and is an infrequent British Technicolour film of the period. According to the BFI Screenonline: "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."[2] The film was based on a novel by Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon, published in 1946.[3] The New York Times described it as being "a typical Gay nineties success story... amuses but never convulses the reader."[4]

Trottie True
"Trottie True".png
Jean Kent in the film
Directed byBrian Desmond Hurst
Written byDenis Freeman
Based ona novel by S.J. Simon and Caryl Brahms
Produced byHugh Stewart
StarringJean Kent
James Donald
Hugh Sinclair
CinematographyHarry Waxman
Edited byRalph Kemplen
Music byBenjamin Frankel
Distributed byGeneral Film Distributors (UK)
Eagle-Lion Films (US)
Release dates
9 August 1949 (London)(UK)
1949 (US)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom


Trottie True is a Gaiety Girl of the 1890s who, after a brief romance with a balloonist, marries Lord Digby Landon, becoming Duchess of Wellwater when he succeeds to the dukedom.[2] Whilst her music hall background delights the staff, it does not, at first, delight her aristocratic in-laws. But after complimenting Trottie upon doing what she likes, rather than obeying convention, Lady Drinkwater calls her a "true aristocrat".

However, Digby agrees to lunch with the Marquess of Maidenhead at Romanoff's, and to be the escort of Ruby Rubato (another chorus girl), merely so the married Marquess can philander with another. But Trottie is also dining there, with an old beau, having invited him after they innocently met in Hyde Park, London after years of separation. Upon seeing each other, Digby and Trottie both believe they have discovered the other in an assignation, as the Marquess has failed to arrive, leaving Digby and Rubato alone.

The film is set as Trottie looks back over her past, whilst staring out of a window at a wedding, and pondering her future.



The exterior shots of the mansion are of Stowe House. Producer Hugh Stewart read the story when he was recovering from jaundice. He bought the film rights and tried to finance the film through MGM, with whom Stewart had a contract. MGM did not want to make the film, but Stewart got it financed at Two Cities. MGM loaned Stewart to Two Cities to produce the film.[5]

Stewart says that several directors were considered, including Harold French, before going with Brian Desmond Hurst.[6] Anthony Steel made one of his earliest film appearances in Trottie True.[7]

Jean Kent called it her "favourite film. And Harry Waxman was a marvellous cameraman. They weren't good with the music, though. I had a battle about that."[8] Kent went on to elaborate:

We were scheduled to start and I hadn't heard a word about the music, so I rang up whoever was the head of Two Cities... I finally managed to get half the music done and then I had another argument about the first number. It dissolves from the brown eyed young Trottie to the hazel eyed big Trotttie, which was hysterical. They wanted me to sing something in schottische... I said 'It's a very nice number but I come from the music halls and I tell you you cannot use a schottische at this point. So he [the music director] changed it to 6/8 time.[8]

Kent said she had to prevent the filmmakers from cutting away from her singing "which they used to be very fond of, in British films. The whole point of somebody singing the song is for the audience in the cinema, not the people in the movie. So I had to devise ways to keep moving all the time so they couldn't get the scissors in, particularly during the Marie Lloyd number in the ballroom scene after I'd become the duchess."[8]

Production of the film was interrupted by a strike from crew members in protest over recent sackings of film workers.[9] Three and a half days of filming were lost due to the strike. However, it was completed on schedule.[10]


The film was released in the United States by Eagle-Lion as The Gay Lady.[11]

Box officeEdit

Trade papers called the film a "notable box office attraction" in British cinemas in 1949.[12]

Critical receptionEdit

The New York Times described the film as "the professional and romantic rise of Trottie True as depicted in The Gay Lady, which arrived from England at the Sixtieth Street Trans-Lux on Saturday. But this Technicolored rags to riches ascent, which is interlarded with song and dance turns, is something less than original and rarely sprightly. Trottie True's tale is an old one and it hasn't worn well with the years."[13]

Leonard Maltin rated the film two and a half out of four stars, and called it a "lightweight costume picture...most notable aspect of film is its stunning use of Technicolor. Look fast for Christopher Lee as a dapper stage-door Johnnie."[14]


  1. ^ "BFI | Film & TV Database | TROTTIE TRUE (1948)". 16 April 2009. Archived from the original on 13 January 2009. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  2. ^ a b "BFI Screenonline: Trottie True (1948)". Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  3. ^ Hale, Lionel (29 December 1946). "Red Plush". The Observer. [London (UK). p. 3.
  4. ^ Homer, Louise. (7 December 1947). "Razzle-Dazzle: TROTTIE TRUE. By Caryl Brahms and S.J. Simon. 247 pp. Philadelphia, Pa.: J.B. Lippincott Co. $2.75". New York Times. p. 235.
  5. ^ Brian McFarlane, An Autobiography of British Film p 545-546
  6. ^ Brian McFarlane, An Autobiography of British Film p 546
  7. ^ Vagg, Stephen (23 September 2020). "The Emasculation of Anthony Steel: A Cold Streak Saga". Filmink.
  8. ^ a b c Brian McFarlane, An Autobiography of British Film p 341
  9. ^ "FILM STRIKE". Sunday Times. Perth. 31 October 1948. p. 12 Section: The Sunday Times Sporting Section. Retrieved 4 March 2013 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ "FEMININE INTEREST". Warwick Daily News. No. 9278. Queensland, Australia. 2 May 1949. p. 3. Retrieved 26 April 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
  11. ^ A. H. WEILER (6 November 1949). "BY WAY OF REPORT: Embassy to Drop Newsreels – Newspaper Story Draws Bids – 'Pinky' in Dixie". New York Times. p. X5.
  12. ^ Robert Murphy, Realism and Tinsel: Cinema and Society in Britain 1939–48 2003 p211
  13. ^ "Movie Review – – THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; 'The Gay Lady,' British Film Depicting Rise of Music Hall Performer, at 60th Street Trans-Lux". NY Times. 16 April 1951. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  14. ^ "Trottie True (1949) – Overview". TCM. Retrieved 15 June 2014.

External linksEdit