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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
The surviving print, preserved by the Library of Congress, and occasionally shown on TCM, is the post-Production Code re-release (bearing the re-release Seal of Approval), but since it runs exactly 1:28:40, apparently little alteration was made from the original, whose 1931 New York City opening was clocked at 80 minutes. However, on a couple of occasions, lines of dialogue have been obviously edited out that evidently failed to pass post-code regulations. See more »
Mrs. Anna Maurrant:
I often think it's a shame that people don't seem able to live together in peace and quiet without making each other miserable.
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The blistering heat and unrelenting humidity of a hot summer day drive the tenants of a four story walk-up out in front of the house, where they sit on the stoop and gossip about one another with wanton relish. Others hang out the window, watching the cars drive by on the busy, two way street, while the occasional passing of the el can be heard coming down the tracks at the end of the block.
The most vicious of the gossips is played by Beulah Bondi, a hag of a woman who looks much older than her years. Her favorite target is the very lonely, and very stunning Mrs. Maurrant, wonderfully played by Estelle Taylor, who is constantly bullied by her husband, played by David Landau. Mrs. Maurrant is so lovely, she looks more like an older sister to Rose, portrayed nicely by Sylvia Sidney, instead of her mother. Mrs. Maurrant is so desperate for some kindness and attention, that her fondness for the milkman is easily discerned by her jackal-like neighbors. The moment she's out of sight, Beulah Bondi's character starts passing judgment with a vengeance, and gets the other neighbors all stirred up in the process. To make matter's worse, Bondi and the others always act so peculiar every time Mr. Maurrant passes by, that he soon grasps the fact that they think his wife is having an affair with the milkman.
Although the building is filled with people of different nationalities and creeds, all displaying intolerance of others in one way or another, the main theme of the film is the belief that malicious gossip, unforgiving and relenting, is as deadly as any weapon, and probably more so. At least a gun can shoot a person dead in a moment, but cruel and relentless gossip cuts at the heart and soul without mercy. Mrs. Maurrant is chided, ridiculed, humiliated, and made fun of at every turn, while she bravely tries to be friendly and understanding to everyone else. Street Scene is well written and wonderfully acted by all the players, but it's a creaky film with almost no movement. The whole movie is shot on the front stoop of the house, and such a static film may be difficult for some to take. But, it is a touching story that will make some question the usual rules regarding morality and fidelity. Even Mr. Murrant becomes the victim of the gossip, as he explains to his daughter Rose, "It was all the talk that was driving me crazy."
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