The Gay Lady (1949)


The Gay Lady (1949)
Trottie True (original title)

In the 1890s, Trottie True moves from bit theatre parts to stardom, and from balloonist Sid Skinner to more prominent men. Later on, she wonders if Sid wasn't better after all, and seeks to find out.
IMDb  6.0 /10
Director Brian Desmond Hurst
Writer S.J. Simon
Writer Caryl Brahms
Writer Denis Freeman
Release Date1949-09-12
Runtime1h 31mins
GenreComedy, Music, Romance
Content RatingPassed (Passed)
CompanyTwo Cities Films
Trottie True
Lord Digby Landon
Maurice Beckenham
Bouncie Barrington
Monty, Marquis of Maidenhead
Joan Young
Joan Young
Mrs. True
Tony Halfpenny
Tony Halfpenny
Perce True (as Anthony Halfpenny)
Carole Lesley
Carole Lesley
Clare as a child
Carol Leslie
Carol Leslie
Clara as a child
Trottie as a Child
David Liney
David Liney
Perce as a child (as David Lines)

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. It was known as The Gay Lady in the US, and is a rare 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."


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. Whilst her music hall background delights the staff, it does not delight her aristocratic in-laws.

However, Digby continues to go to the Gaiety Theatre and has an affair with one of the other girls, Ruby Rubato, which becomes common knowledge. The film is set as Trottie looks back over her life and ponders her future.


  • Jean Kent – Trottie True
  • James Donald – Lord Digby Landon (later Duke of Wellwater)
  • Hugh Sinclair – Maurice Beckenham
  • Lana Morris – Bouncie Barrington
  • Andrew Crawford – Sid Skinner, the balloonist
  • Bill Owen – Joe Jugg
  • Michael Medwin – Marquis of Maidenhead
  • Joan Young – Mrs True
  • Harold Scott – Mr True
  • Tony Halfpenny – Perce True
  • Daphne Anderson – Bertha True
  • Katharine Blake – Ruby Rubarto
  • Philip Strange – Earl of Burney
  • Darcy Conyers – Claude
  • Josef Ramart – Monty's Chauffeur (uncredited)
  • Francis de Wolff – George Edwardes
  • Campbell Cotts – Saintsbury, the butler
  • Harcourt Williams – Duke of Wellwater (Digby's father)
  • Mary Hinton – Duchess of Wellwater (Digby's mother)
  • Christopher Lee as Hon. Bongo Icklesham
  • Roger Moore - stage door Johnny (uncredited)
  • Hattie Jacques as Daisy Delaware, a Gaiety girl
  • Ian Carmichael - as postman (uncredited)
  • Patrick Cargill - as a party guest (uncredited)
  • Sam Kydd "Bedford" Stage Manager (uncredited)


The film was based on a novel published in 1946. The New York Times called it "a typical Gay nineties success story... amuses but never convulses the reader."

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.

Stewart says that a number of directors were considered, including Harold French, before going with Brian Desmond Hurst.

Anthony Steel makes one of his earliest film appearances in the movie.

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." 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 changed it to 6/8 time.

Kent says she also 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."

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


The film was released in the United States by Eagle Lion as The Gay Lady.

Box office

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

Critical reception

  • The New York Times noted "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."
  • 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."