Adapted by Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell from C. J. Dennis's collection of poems (The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke), the story concerns Bill ('the bloke'), a Sydney larrikin who vows to abandon his life of gambling and drinking when he falls in love with Doreen (who works in a pickle factory). His reformation comes about after he has been released from gaol, having been convicted of assaulting a policeman ('stoushing a John') during a raid on a two-up game.
'The Sentimental Bloke was a hugely popular multi-media phenomenon in Australia during the First World War and early interwar years. I explore the work as a heterosexual “masculine romance”: a love story expressing heterosexual romantic feeling from a masculine point of view and in a self-consciously masculine way. The Bloke phenomenon demonstrates that “ordinary” Australian men were more interested in certain forms of romantic popular culture than previously allowed. It also points to the fact that avowedly masculine constructions of romantic feeling were emerging in this period in response to criticism of elaborate Victorian-era expressions of romance on the one hand, and of commodified approaches to romantic love on the other. This point has implications for romance studies, which has paid little attention to the concept or even the possibility of masculine romance. In Australia, there was an insistent emphasis on plainness and straightforwardness as the hallmarks of a sturdily masculine approach to romance in the 1910s and 1920s. My hope is that this discussion will prompt other romance scholars to consider the particular inflexions given to masculine constructions of romance in other localities in the same period.'