Sparrers Can't Sing
|Sparrers Can't Sing|
UK quad poster
|Directed by||Joan Littlewood|
|Produced by||Donald Taylor|
|Written by||Stephen Lewis|
|Edited by||Oswald Hafenrichter|
|Distributed by||Elstree Distributors|
|26 March 1963|
Sparrers Can't Sing (Sparrows Can't Sing in the United States) is a 1962 British film. Based on a 1960 play, it was directed by Joan Littlewood and was from a story by Stephen Lewis. The producer was Don Taylor and the original music by James Stevens, incidental music was composed by Stanley Black. The play, also by Stephen Lewis, was first performed at Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop in the Theatre Royal Stratford East.
The play was first performed at Theatre Royal Stratford East in 1960, using cast from the Theatre Workshop, who later appeared in the film. While the script is by Stephen Lewis, the play was developed using improvisational theatre techniques during performance. In common with much of Joan Littlewood's direction, it was an ensemble piece.
The production made a successful transfer to the West End at Wyndham's Theatre in 1961.
The film was made on location, in Limehouse, Isle of Dogs, Stepney and around the theatre in Stratford. Sets were occasionally visited by nearby Vallance Road residents The Krays, who also made a cameo appearance towards the end of the film.
Sparrers Can't Sing is a comedy attempting to provide a representation of Cockney life in the East End of London in the early 1960s. A collection of typical characters such as people at the local pub, local tarts, Jewish tradesmen, spivs and others are portrayed, (and possibly larger than life).
The dialogue is a mixture of Cockney rhyming slang, London Yiddish, and thieves' cant. The New York Times, in its review said "... this isn't a picture for anyone with a logical mind or an ear for language. The gabble of cockney spoken here is as incomprehensible as the reasoning of those who speak it." It was also the first "English language" film to be released in the United States with English language subtitles.
Charlie, a cockney sailor comes home from a long voyage to find his house razed. His wife, Maggie, is missing. Actually, Maggie is now living with a bus driver, Bert, and has a new baby, the parentage of which is in doubt. Charlie's friends will not tell him where to find Maggie because Charlie is known to have a bad temper. Finally Charlie meets up with Maggie and after a fierce row with Bert, they are reconciled.
- "Film Review" by Maurice Speed – Publisher: MacDonald, 1964
- Sparrows Can't Sing at the Internet Movie Database
- James Booth tribute website: http://jamesboo.ipower.com/reviews/sparrows_cant_sing.htm