Street Scene (1931)

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Twenty-four hours elapse on the stoop of a Hell's Kitchen tenement as a microcosm of the American melting pot interacts with each other during a summer heatwave.



(play), (adaptation)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
William Collier Jr. ...
David Landau ...
Matt McHugh ...
Russell Hopton ...
Greta Granstedt ...
Mae Jones (as Greta Grandstedt)
Eleanor Wesselhoeft ...
Allen Fox ...
Dick McGann (as Allan Fox)
Nora Cecil ...
Margaret Robertson ...
Walter James ...
Max Montor ...


In a hot summer afternoon in New York, Emma Jones gossips with other neighbors of her residential building about the affair of Mrs. Anna Maurrant and the milkman Steve Sankey. When the rude Mr. Frank Maurrant arrives, they change the subject. Meanwhile, their teenage daughter Rose Maurrant is sexually harassed by her boss Mr. Bert Easter; however, she likes her Jewish neighbor Sam that has a crush on her. On the next morning, Frank tells that is traveling to Stanford on business. Mrs. Maurrant meets the gentle Sankey in her apartment, but out of the blue Frank comes back home in an announced tragedy. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance





Release Date:

5 September 1931 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Engel der Strasse  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$584,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Film debut of Matt McHugh. See more »


Emma Jones: Aw, men are all alike. They're all easy enough to get along with so long as everything goes the way they want it to, but once it don't, good night.
See more »


La donna è mobile
from "Rigoletto" (uncredited)
Composed by Giuseppe Verdi (1851)
Sung a capella by George Humbert
See more »

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User Reviews

Unforgettable slice of life from infancy of sound era
7 June 2002 | by (Western New York) – See all my reviews

King Vidor's Street Scene, from the infancy of the sound era, may be cinema's quintessential slice of life. Drawn from the 1929 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Elmer Rice – so many movies from the earliest 1930s were little more than filmed stage plays – Street Scene surmounts the limitations of its time and its material to achieve the status of a minor milestone in movie history. It's dated, occasionally clumsy, but unforgettable.

Street Scene's microcosm is a brownstone in a Manhattan tenement block during a scorching heat wave. The residents, in their various comings and goings, loiter on its front stoop to catch a stray zephyr and exchange some gossip. The gossip-in-chief is Beulah Bondi, a dried-up streel griping that she doesn't have a `dry stitch' on her (Vidor permits himself a cheeky shot of her, shot from below and behind, when she furtively unsticks her house dress from her, well, person).

Incidental players include a henpecked young husband whose wife is about to go into labor; an elderly Jew spouting socialist rant; his son, a non-violent college man with a crush on a gentile girl; cheerful Italians and dour Scandinavians; pinched and bitter social workers; gasbags, mashers and inebriates.

After reviling the weather with immemorial cliches, the characters turn wickedly to their chief topic: the milkman's suspicious visits to a married woman upstairs. (Her daughter, the central character in the drama -- Sylvia Sidney -- makes a later entrance but will ring down the curtain.) Meanwhile, the characters carry on city life in a rough-and-tumble of casually aimed racist barbs, sanctimonious judgementalism, and general acceptance of the notion that one's neighbors' lives are the reality television of the day, to be viewed with gusto. The potent cocktail of slander and humidity will have fatal results.

Vidor employs his talents adroitly. The movie's first `act' stays stubbornly crouched on that stoop, but gradually Vidor opens up his stage in a series of tilts and pans so that the brownstone becomes but one cell in a bustling urban organism. (Technically, it's precocious, and the story's dramatic `climax' arrives in a montage that may elicit smiles but still remains impressive.) Surviving current attitudes about political correctness and convincing `realism' (that most elusive of artifices), Street Scene endures as haunting, human experiment – among the finest of the first `talkies.'

Note: Rice's play was later to become the libretto to Kurt Weill's Broadway `opera' Street Scene.

18 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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