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Broken Strings

16mm motion picture film of Broken Strings

Directed by
Ray, Bernard B, Russian, 1895 - 1964
Created by
Ray, Bernard B, Russian, 1895 - 1964
Subject of
Lewis, Sybil, American, 1940 - 1948
Written by
Muse, Clarence Edouard, American, 1889 - 1979
16mm Film (a): acetate film;
16mm Film (b): acetate film
Duration: 60 Minutes
Length (Film Reel 1): 1300 Feet
Length (Film Reel 2): 900 Feet
motion pictures (information artifacts)
Place depicted
United States, North and Central America
Place filmed
United States, North and Central America
A popular and renowned violinist's career is ended when he suffers a hand injury. His hopes of passing his classical training and success to his son are challenged when he learns his son prefers free-spirited swing music to refined classical.
2015.167.3.1ab: 16mm black and white film.
An all-Black melodrama concerning a classical violinist who injures his fingers. His son tries to earn the needed cash to restore his father's paralyzed hand by following in his father's footsteps as a violinist but to his father's displeasure, he prefers swing to classical music.
Begins as violinist Arthur Williams and his business manager, Earl Wells, are injured in an automobile accident after a concert. As a result of the accident, Arthur's fingers become paralyzed and he is unable to play the violin, which leads him to become a music instructor. Arthur's favorite student, Dickie Morley, aspires to classical music, while John, Arthur's twelve-year-old son, prefers "wild" swing music. Arthur's daughter Grace, who works as a secretary for James Stilton hair products, is in love with Gus Stevens, a fellow employee at the company. When Grace arranges an appointment for her father with Dr. Charles Matson, a famous nerve specialist visiting the city, Matson agrees to forgo his usual $1,000 fee and allow Johnny to raise the money at a later date. Meanwhile, Stilton's son Sam, who is jealous of Gus's romance with Grace, refuses to give her an advance and then tries to frame Gus and get him fired for mishandling a cash deposit. After the two men fight, both Gus and Grace quit. Meanwhile, Johnny becomes a hit playing at the Miller Café, a nightclub. Arthur, however, is furious when he finds out and, as punishment, forces his son to play until he drops from exhaustion. Arthur soon learns from Grace that Johnny was only trying to raise money for the operation and to supplement the family income during her unemployment. Johnny and Grace enter a radio talent contest, and their act is scheduled to follow banjo player Stringbeans Johnson and the Stevens Sisters, who dance and sing "Kentucky Babe." Johnny takes the stage, but his act is a disaster when first one violin string, then another, snaps. Johnny realizes that with only two strings remaining on the violin, he can only play a swing number and the entire orchestra joins in. Johnny wins the contest, and in his enthusiasm, Arthur is able to applaud his son, regaining the use of his fingers. Dickie then confesses to sabotaging the violin and apologizes, and Arthur resumes his career as a premier violinist.
AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Accessed on August 12, 2016 (
WorldCat. Accessed on August 12, 2016 (
African American
Domestic life
Drama (Theatre)
Jazz (Music)
Race films
Credit Line
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Randall and Sam Nieman
Object number
Restrictions & Rights
Unknown - Restrictions Possible
See more items in
National Museum of African American History and Culture Collection
Collection title
Nieman Film Collection
Media Arts-Film and Video
Data Source
National Museum of African American History and Culture

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