Accomplished violinist Al Shean (as Adolph Greig) is ready to celebrate his advancing years by soloing with a noted New York orchestra - but, Mr. Shean wounds his hand, and effectively ends his career. Then, Shean's two selfish, ungrateful children desert their old man. Rebellious son John Darrow (as Richard) pawns his dad's cello to begin a life of crime, and shallow daughter Evelyn Brent (as Paula) elopes with wealthy older Richard Tucker (as Michael Rupert).
With no means of support, Shean hits the streets (this film was made just before President Franklin D. Roosevelt's new deal "Social Security" program became law). Unconcerned, Ms. Brent enjoys spending her husband's money. She bears him one neglected son, but discourages the boy's interest in music. When old musician friend Albert Conti (as Mancini) and trombonist Charles Judels (as Rozzini) discover Shean has become a homeless beggar, they help set him up as a violin instructor.
Shean's young pupils play poorly, but his teaching is a success. He also enjoys a surrogate father relationship Mr. Judels' attractive daughter Gigi Parrish (as Carmen) and her amorous boyfriend John Harron (as Herb Livingston), who plays saxophone. Eventually, Shean's wayward son learns of his father's new success, and Mr. Darrow moves back in with his forgiving dad. Shean welcomes Darrow with a loan, unaware the crooked kid plans to use Shean as a front for illegal activities.
Meanwhile, daughter Brent finally runs off with some divorce settlement money, provided by Mr. Tucker. Brent is uninterested in son "Carl", so father Tucker places the wavy-haired lad, now played by Lester Lee, in foster care, with grandmotherly Ferike Boros (as Mary Schultz), and takes off for Europe. Young Lee still loves to play the violin, and begins to study with Shean - but, the two do not know they are related. When Lee becomes a child prodigy, the family is reunited
Producer Maury M. Cohen's "An Invincible Picture" opening logo heralds this as a "poverty row" film. Yet, "Symphony of Living" makes the most of its interesting cast and crew. A tidy little melodrama, complete with closing dissolve, it's lesson in low-budget filmmaking. Shean handles the starring role well; uncle to "The Marx Bothers" and equally famous in the 1920s as half of "Gallagher & Shean", his million selling #1 hit "Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Shean" (1922) is readily available online.
****** Symphony of Living (1/20/35) Frank R. Strayer ~ Al Shean, John Darrow, Evelyn Brent, John Harron