Sidewalks of London (1938) Poster

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A neglected treasure
Ken (Silents)3 May 2006
This is a wonderful story of love, ambition and sacrifice among the buskers (street performers) of London. Everybody's good, but Laughton and Leigh will stay in your mind and your heart long after you've seen this great film.

Laughton's performance should be studied by every acting student. He gives us a Charlie Staggers who is funny, resourceful, honest and pathetic and with a great capacity to love and do right by others. He is a simple and good man with a deep soul, and his audition in the theatre at the climax of the picture is both sad and uplifting.

Viven Leigh demonstrates a great talent and the characteristics that made her so successful the following year as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With the Wind." In this film she begins as a self righteous and petty thief and by the end she has grown to become a highly successful but humbled actress. Leigh carries this change superbly and makes it completely believable. By any measure it is a great performance.

"Sidewalks of London" is also very well written, directed and edited. I rank this as one of the best English language films of the 1930s.
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Forgotten Classic
peacham22 September 1999
I cannot praise this film enough. ST. MARTIN'S LANE captures the feeling and mood of the time so well. The performances are outstanding. In one film you have 3 of the centurie's greatest actors Rex Harrison, Vivian Leigh, and Charles Laughton.

Vivian Leigh was never more fetching,gutsy or charming.not even in Gone with the wind or waterloo bridge. Harrison make the most of his typical leading man role and Laughton evokes such sympathy. it is his finest performance as well. my onlt question is why has this gem been almost forgotten? I was lucky enough to catch it on television about 8 years ago. it is only now being released on video.My advice...purchase this film,you need it in your personal collection !
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A treat for film coinnesseurs
Eva Ionesco27 November 1999
This is a rare treat for coinnesseurs, a film where three of the greatest actors of Hollywood, Rex Harrison, Charles Laughton, and Vivien Leigh, strut their considerable stuff! They were all still relatively young in 1938, but already you can see the promise of great things to come, for the three, especially Laughton, who was already one of the world's finest actors.

In many ways the story resembles Harrison's later role as Professor Higgins in "My Fair Lady"(1964). Laughton and Leigh play buskers in the street, and Harrison plays a toff who gives Leigh a chance at stardom. Laughton plays quite a similar role to his later "Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1939) who falls in love with the girl but recognises he is too ugly for her, and eventually contents himself with her kindness towards him. You can see Laughton's superb acting skills, when she kisses him, and his eyes shine with satisfaction and pride, as they wave goodbye to each other. It is truly a precious moment in films, a moment to savour.

The following year saw the release of Leigh's "Gone With The Wind" and of course "The Wizard of Oz", two of the greatest films ever made, so minor films like this tended to be forgotten quickly. It's worth taking another look, though, at this film, which deserves far more recognition than it got.
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Vivien Leigh lights up the screen and steals the picture
ianlouisiana5 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Bona Fide buskers have long been replaced by aggressive beggars,"Big Issue" vendors with mean - looking dogs and white guys with dreadlocks and body - piercings juggling tennis rackets that tend to intimidate rather than entertain theatre queues.Back in the forties and fifties you would happily throw a shilling to Wilson,Keppel and Betty lookalikes doing a sand dance in Shaftesbury Avenue or "The Happy Wanderers" street band playing their English Dixieland(they even made a couple of L.P.s for "Esquire" - now collectors' items).St Martin's Lane itself runs into the Charing Cross Road near Trafalgar Square and is at the heart of the West End theatre district.At the time the movie was made,buskers worked clearly delineated pitches,unwritten but fiercely enforced laws prevented them from working both sides of the street and there were indeed families of buskers as there were families of costermongers,both considered lucrative and honourable trades.

"St Martin's Lane" the movie contains the requisite warm - hearted cockneys, and patronising nobs.The London vernacular owes a lot to Mr Bernard Shaw,an impression further encouraged by both Mr C.Laughton and Mr R.Harrison who speak their lines with theatrical relish.It might even be a "Pygmalion" variation if you wish to see it as such,adding spice to Mr Harrison's characterisation with the benefit of hindsight. Whatever you might feel about that possible interpretation of the story, the undoubted crux of the whole show is Miss V.Leigh whose performance shouts "I'm a Star " from her first appearance on the screen.Rarely has an actress grasped a movie by the scruff of it's neck and dragged it up several grades single - handedly in so spectacular a fashion.She has innocence and joie de vivre,beauty and grace and the camera loved her. Try as Mr Laughton and Mr Harrison might,she cannot be upstaged. For all their bathos and charm respectively they have to take a back seat to Miss Leigh's explosion of talent and energy.Twenty years later what a wonderful Eliza Dolittle she would have made. No wonder she and her husband were two of the biggest names in the cinema and theatre for two decades. Her "English" period can be exemplified by "St Martin's Lane" and "Waterloo Bridge",two superb London - based movies that show her beauty at its most radiant and her talent in its first great blooming. Since her tragically early death,British Cinema has had no actress able to express the wide - eyed naivety of the ingenue so beautifully. Those of you to whom Miss Leigh means only Scarlett O'Hara or Blanche Dubois would do well to seek out either of those wonderful pictures.
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Enjoyable Surprise !!!
olddiscs25 September 2005
I never heard of this film..During my recent insomniac attacks The Sidewalks of London was shown on WLIW TV (It must have been aired @ 2 am..Long Island NY station) I missed the beginning by a few minutes..but thoroughly enjoyed this film..a wonderful surprise great story and a dream cast: Charles Laughton, Vivien Leigh and "sexy" Rexy Harrison all giving wonderful performances... was not a good copy however will be looking for a better in the future..Miss Leigh made this film I believe just before GWTW ..and she sings and dances surprisingly well as does Laughton Don't Miss ! The plot involves London Street entertainer, Laughton & Leigh are friends living together (with Ms. Leigh;'s {Liberty}family) barely making a living Laughton is older than Leigh loves her but along comes Rex.. and things change Leigh becomes a musical comedy star Laughton becomes a street begger and goes to jail for a time.. very moving .& fun also. Don't Miss!!
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Long live the buskers of London
jotix10018 April 2004
The street performers of London were a delightful bunch of people that eked out a living by doing what came to them naturally: singing, dancing, reciting poetry, or just plain entertainment, directed at the crowds of the West End of London. They belong in a time capsule. The buskers were a local phenomenon.

I discovered this forgotten film at the CUNY cinematheque. It is a film that shows the talents of the young Vivien Leigh, Rex Harrison and more established stars like Charles Laughton. In Tim Whelan's film they all come alive in this tale of an impossible love story.

The star turn of Vivien Leigh in the movie is just incredible. Not only could she act, but she was an accomplished dancer as well. Charles Laughton is perfect as the man who is vain enough not to admit to his own age because of the disparity between him and his beloved Libby. There are other delightful performances by Tyrone Guthrie, Larry Adler and other English theatre actors of that era.

This film should be seen, or at least shown on television more often.
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So many greats in ONE place
sk-f25 September 2005
I was in awe of this movie. THREE great actors right off the bat: Rex Harrison, Charles Laughton AND the incomparable, Vivian Leigh thrill the senses! I was pleased just to look at them & watch them apply their craft. I wasn't as excited about the plot. It was the actors I enjoyed seeing. However, the movie was great in it's historic setting. Of course, it took place in the 1938's present day. But it was like a history lesson in the arts. Street performers still perform on the streets of New York. It was interesting to see it in the London setting. Viewing live 1930s entertainment was such fun & historically educational. Much more enjoyable watching it "live" than reading it in a dusty old book.
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The ancient art of busking
bkoganbing24 April 2005
When St. Martin's Lane first came out it was not given any release in the United States, I suppose because American audiences would not be attuned to buskers. We have no equivalent of that here.

Nevertheless it's a nice film. Charles Laughton is the head of a troop of buskers (British street entertainers)who inhabit and perform in and around the London theater district. The group takes in street waif Vivien Leigh and it's obvious she's got real talent. And theatrical composer Rex Harrison appreciates her charms even more than her talent.

Laughton is not a man who takes betrayal gladly as he sees it. The rest of the film you'll have to see for yourself.

It's nice to see both Harrison and Leigh in good parts before they became big stars. Laughton as always is fabulous, he's got the London cockney accent down pat.

After Vivien Leigh became a star with the release of Gone With the Wind, St. Martin's Lane made it to the states in a limited run. It was no big hit in Great Britain for Laughton who co-produced it with Erich Pommer, the second of three films they did. But Vivien Leigh's success helped them recoup a bit.
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There was a time before evil and a time before death...
mayo23381 January 2003
Vivian Leigh charms and beguiles as does Charles Laughton and Rex Harrison,all of them in their innocence and unaffected excellence. A needful but blithe and hopeful era in London, after the internecine slaughter of World War I and the unimaginable evil of World War II and the Holocaust. To experience these three and others in a blitheful , happy episode of innocent merriment will uplift thee.
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Good early Vivien Leigh picture
Michael Reddy4 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I bought this film because I am in to old classic films.This film is an enjoyable period piece about a pickpocket that finds her way to stardom in the theater but realizes that she got there the wrong way.It really invokes the time and place it depicts.I thought Vivien Leigh was good but Charles Laughton really made the picture.His acting is really the highlight of this picture.His performance is very convincing and gives a real sense of how he would be on the stage.Rex Harrison really has a bit part to play as Liberty's lover and sponsor but he acts pretty well.There are a few musical numbers that I enjoyed."Spoiler", The scene between between Liberty and Charles in her bedroom was my favourite scene in the whole movie.Overall I enjoyed this film and would recommend it to anybody who is into early cinema .
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