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As the mid-July sun sets on one of the summer's hottest days, little groups of people gather to discuss the newest neighborhood scandal. Standing in front of a rusty brownstone in Manhattan's West Sixties, they gossip about all the tenants of the building, but especially Mrs. Marrant, who has been seeing the local milkman behind her husband's back. When Mr. Marrant takes a trip out of town, the two lovers have a tragic meeting when her husband doubles back, catching them together. The confrontation will change everyone's lives forever, especially the Marrant's beautiful young daughter Rose (Sylvia Sidney, in one of her first starring roles), who is left to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives. Presented by Samuel Goldwyn and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama by Elmer Rice, who also wrote the screenplay, director King Vidor (Duel In the Sun, Our Daily Bread) has fashioned a raw, harrowing and powerful film with striking camera work by Academy Award-winning cinematographer George Barnes (Rebecca) and musical direction by nine-time Oscar winner Alfred Newman (Camelot, The King and I).
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As far as I can tell, however, the movie and the puzzle have absolutely nothing in common other than the name and now my five star review.
This puzzle is high quality. The pieces were cleanly cut and fit well together and are oversized. The loose style of the picture gives a slightly impressionistic vibe, which makes the puzzle more challenging than a strictly representational picture would be. You can probably see what I mean if you enlarge the photo of the box on your screen. Individual puzzle pieces show indistinct blobs until properly placed. Then a lovely scene emerges when all is in context. Speaking of the box, I think the colors on the box don't match the puzzle exactly and the picture is rather small in comparison with this large format puzzle. This would have been a good puzzle in which to include an internal poster. The good news is that the puzzle is better looking than the box imo. The finished puzzle is lovely and a good choice for upcoming family holiday gatherings. All pieces were in included in the box I received, which makes me happy because I intend to preserve this puzzle.
Though the entire film takes place on the steps of a tenament in New York where getting out is only a deam, only the first 15 minutes or so give evidence of its stage origins. Director Vidor, always innovative, uses photographer George Barnes' camera and a fine early score from Alfred Newman to give the viewer a real feel for these lives being led in sometimes quiet, and sometimes not so quiet, desperation. Soon you are lost in their world and begin to understand that much of what happens is simply born of poverty and having nowhere else to turn.
Much of the film is dialog between these neigbors living in cramped and hot quarters. There are Jews and Germans and Irish, Rice's words and Vidor's direction letting their lives unfold through that street scene in front of their building during the summer heat. A fire hydrant may offer some relief to the small children in the street but it will take more than water for some.
At the center of everything is Mrs. Murrant (Estelle Taylor) and her daughter Rose (Sylvia Sidney). Taylor gives an excellent performance as a woman reaching out for any happiness she can find in the slums. Her husband and Rose's father provides food and shelter but is so caught up in his own unhappiness there is no love or tenderness left to give.
Only trying to get more from life than just looking after someone else will lead the lonely mother of Rose to the arms of the milk collector. Their looks and actions are not lost on the other women in the building, especially the snide Mrs. Jones. Neither is it lost on her son Willie's friends. When Rose's father begins to suspect, tragedy is not far behind.
Sylvia underplays her Rose with sincerity and maturity. She sees both sides and understands that it is their environment which is causing all this. She herself is loved by a young Jewish boy whose mother likes Rose but knows his focus on getting out falters whenever she is near. Rose will grow up in an instant, and her life and that of her brother Willie's will change forever.
There are some quietly powerful scenes in this talky but rewarding drama. Rose attempting to cross the street while a young newsboy tries to get her to purchase his last paper, not knowing the sensational headline touches her personally, is quite moving. It is still a powerful scene as an ambulance pulls away from Rose, taking with it her youth in these slums.
There is a rich and mature ending with Vidor's camera following Rose toward the unknown, the New York skyline of the time offering hope perhaps, for a future born from tragedy. What has begun as a somewhat dated early talkie has become a moving and touching film of real substance.
King Vidor has been neglected when the subject of great directors comes up, possibly due to the fact that some of his best work, most notably "The Stranger's Return," is not available. "Street Scene" is one of his best and, while slightly dated, is well worth a look for film buffs.