EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|SIDEWALKS OF LONDON (aka: ST. MARTIN'S LANE) (director/writer: Tim Whelan; screenwriters: Bartlett Cormack/Clemence Dane/Charles Laughton/Erich Pommer; cinematographer: Jules Kruger; editors: Robert Hamer/Hugh Stewart; music: Arthur Johnston; cast: Charles Laughton (Charles Staggers), Vivien Leigh (Liberty 'Libby'), Rex Harrison (Harley Prentiss), Larry Adler (Constantine Dan), Tyrone Guthrie (Gentry), Maire O'Neill (Mrs. Such), Gus McNaughton (Arthur Smith), Polly Ward (Frankie), Basil Gill (Magistrate), Helen Haye (Selina); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Erich Pommer; Paramount Pictures; 1938-UK)|
all seems hardly real."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
American filmmaker Tim Whelan ("The Thief of Bagdad"/"Swing Fever"/"Badman's Territory") directs this well-crafted but hammy showbiz rom-com, that features star performances from an up-and-coming Vivian Leigh and a scene stealing one by the crafty veteran thespian Charles Laughton. It's also a curious theatrical background tale, but one that goes too melodramatic for my taste. It's manipulatively written by the team of writers Whelan, Bartlett Cormack, Clemence Dane, Charles Laughton and Erich Pommer.
Staggers (Charles Laughton) is a middle-aged busker, who works the
street at night in the legit West End theater district of London. His street act is
reciting poems and monologues. One night runaway orphan Liberty (Vivien Leigh) steals the gold cigarette case of a
famous songwriter and flees to a deserted house. Tracked down by
Charles, the busker becomes impressed by her talents as a dancer and
instead of turning her in makes her part of his act. Charles adds to
his act a quartet of buskers that includes Arthur Smith (Gus
McNaughton), Gentry (Tyrone Guthrie) and Constantine
Dan (Larry Adler, considered
the world's greatest harmonica player), and they take the name "The
Co-Operators." They find success in the streets, but Liberty, now
called Libby, aspires greater fame and dreams of success in the legit
theater. After impressing theatrical
Harley Prentiss (Rex Harrison), whose lighter she stole that
was returned by Charles, she breaks the heart of the smitten much older
Charles, whom she now lives with, as she departs for the legit theater
with her new promoter Prentiss and finds success on the stage.
The film has street cred as
it was shot on location in
Cambridge Circus, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly Circus and St.
Martin's Lane, but even with that going in the pic's favor it all
seems hardly real--just theatrical fancy.
The film wasn't released in America until the unknown Leigh starred in Gone With The Wind.
REVIEWED ON 9/9/2010 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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