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Thursday, August 25, 2016

St. Martin's Lane (aka Sidewalks Of London) (1938)

A 40ish street performer (Charles Laughton) takes pity on a thieving teenage street urchin (Vivien Leigh) and recognizing her talent, he mentors her and falls in love with her. But it won't be long before her ambition leads her to success on the London stage. In Great Britain, street performers were known as buskers and often entertained theater queues waiting to enter the theater and made their living by donations from the crowd. Directed by Tim Whelan (1940's THIEF OF BAGDAD), this may sound like a British variation of A STAR IS BORN but it's not really. It's a charming but heartfelt platonic romance, the homely older man without social skills in love with the much younger ambitious snippet who grasps the first opportunity to further her career. Yet she's so guileless that you can't really resent her. Laughton really was one of the most extraordinary talents of the 20th century and Leigh demonstrates the qualities that would make her a perfect fit for Scarlett O'Hara the following year. Reputedly Laughton and Leigh didn't get along when the cameras weren't rolling but you'd never know it from their solid work here. With Rex Harrison and Tyrone Guthrie.

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