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 dates
  • July 26, 1939 (1939-07-26)
Running time
105 minutes
Country United States
Language English

They Shall Have Music is a 1939 musical film starring famed violinist Jascha Heifetz (as himself), Joel McCrea, Andrea Leeds, and Gene Reynolds. A young runaway finds his purpose in life after hearing Heifetz play, and enrolls in a music school in financial difficulty.


Youngster Frankie (Gene Reynolds) and his small gang commit petty crimes, such as stealing a bicycle and taking money from Willy. Willy's father complains to Frankie's mother (Marjorie Main) and stepfather (Arthur Hohl).

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 attend the concert. Frankie is entranced by the virtuoso performance of Jascha Heifetz. Later, he finds his musician father's violin in the basement of his home. His stepfather believes he stole it, smashes the instrument, and decides to pack him off to reform school. Frankie runs away.

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

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 Mr. Flower (Porter Hall). Flower assigns Peter McCarthy (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 confronts Ann.

Frankie overhears Peter and Ann discussing the situation, and organizes a street band with some of the other students to raise money. When Jascha Heifetz happens along, Frankie tells him about the school. Heifetz offers to send a film of himself playing. When Flower and the other creditors show up, 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 arrested. Fortunately, when Heifetz shows up to collect his instrument, Frankie is able to persuade him to perform at the concert. He also agrees to sponsor the school.


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