Elmer Rice's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the lives and loves of the people who live on a West Side Manhattan street proved to have national appeal under the sure hand of director King Vidor. To insure quality, eight of the original Broadway cast were hired to reprise their roles,
including Beulah Bondi, who made her screen debut here and went on to have a long film career. Practically all of the shooting was done on a huge street set. It's summer and the windows are open. The neighborhood people can't bear to stay in their stifling apartments, so the action takes place
outside. As the film opens, the big topic of conversation is the love affair between mature woman Estelle Taylor and Russell Hopton, a man who collects for the milk company. Taylor's husband, David Landau, suspicious of Hopton and his wife, is just waiting to catch them. As the sun rises, Taylor's
daughter, Sylvia Sidney, goes off to work, while Landau mentions that he has to travel to Connecticut for the day. After Landau leaves, Sidney's beau, Max Montor, sees Hopton surreptitiously make his way to Taylor's flat. The shades come down--every other shade on the block is up to let in fresh
air--and within a few seconds Landau is back in the apartment. Screams are heard, noises of a fight, then a single shot rings out. The people on the street turn their eyes to the sound, the shade comes up, and Hopton stands at the window. Then there's another shot, and Hopton disappears. An
instant later, Landau, looking crazed, comes running out of the brownstone with the gun in his hand; the people on the street shrink back when he tells them to scatter. Landau turns the corner and disappears down an alley as police cars and ambulances rush into the street. A crowd gathers, eager
to watch but not to help, waiting to see what will happen next.
Featuring excellent acting all around, STREET SCENE moves very quickly, with hardly a wasted word. Although somewhat dated by today's standards, it must be judged by those of the 1930s, when it was a stunning achievement. The play ran for more than two years and is still revived often. An added
dimension was composer Alfred Newman's main theme (since used in many films), which ranks, to this day, among the most evocative pieces of music ever written, immediately conjuring up the crowded streets, the hustle, and the oppressive claustrophobia of the Big Apple.
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- Review: Elmer Rice's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about the lives and loves of the people who live on a West Side Manhattan street proved to have national appeal under the sure hand of director King Vidor. To insure quality, eight of the original Broadway cast were… (more)