Street Scene Reviews
It sounds like the plot of Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing" yet this was filmed some sixty years prior. As well as Lee, it appears to have had a major influence on Woody Allen. If you've seen "Manhattan" (and if you haven't, stop reading and go watch it) several sequences will be familiar. The opening and middle montages of New York at sundown and sunset with their Gershwin-esque score by Alfred Newman bear more than a passing resemblance to Allen's great opening. Likewise the movie's final scene, involving a rebuttal of a lover by a young girl who is a lot more mature than he had thought.
It's adapted by the writer Elmer Rice from his Pulitzer winning stage play and in the hands of an average director of the time it would probably be no more than a filmed play. Vidor is not average thankfully and this is a beautiful film in the visual sense. His camera is constantly on the move, probing the nooks and crannies of a very convincing set. He finds inventive angles which reveal subtle information such as the low shot which reveals the outwardly prim and proper Bondi adjusting her underwear out of sight of the neighbours she disrespects.
Had this been made after the introduction of the code it would have been a very different film. Characters throw racial insults around casually and the local good-time girl flaunts her bra-less cleavage in a manner which must have provoked outrage at the time.
Thanks to the pre-code dialogue, the movie has aged extremely well. The New York Times complained at the time that the dialogue was "spoken without sufficient pause". This of course was made a good decade before Hawks and Sturges would turn quickfire banter into an artform. The realistic language seems however to enable the actors to relax into their parts and the performances are so natural it feels like it was made thirty years later. Sidney is particularly good and looks fantastic.
I actually came across this purely by mistake while searching for another of Sidney's movies, "City Streets". You can view the movie in it's entirety on Youtube and I thoroughly suggest you do.