In the Street (film)

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In the Street
Music by Arthur Kleiner
Cinematography Helen Levitt
Janice Loeb
James Agee
Edited by Helen Levitt
Release date
  • 1948 (1948)
, 1952
Running time
14 m

In the Street is a 16-minute documentary film released in 1948 and again in 1952.[1] The black and white, silent film was shot in the mid-1940s in the Spanish Harlem section of New York City. Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb, and James Agee were the cinematographers; they used small, hidden 16 mm film cameras to record street life, especially of children.[2] Levitt edited the film and, subsequent to its first release, added a piano soundtrack composed and performed by Arthur Kleiner.[3][4]

The film is generally considered as an extension of Levitt's (now famed) street photography in New York City, and Levitt subsequently re-used the title, In the Street, for a volume reproducing her photographs.[3][5] Loeb was a painter and photographer. James Agee was a noted writer; both Loeb and Agee subsequently collaborated with Levitt on a second film, The Quiet One (1948).

Manny Farber summarized the film at the time, "The movie, to be shown around the 16mm circuit, has been beautifully edited (by Miss Levitt) into a somber study of the American figure, from childhood to old age, growing stiffer, uglier, and lonelier with the passage of years."[2] The artist Roy Arden recently summarized the film somewhat differently, "In The Street is reportage as art. It reports the facts, but for their useless beauty above all. While it could be argued that the film tells us how working class residents of Spanish Harlem lived in the 30’s and 40’s - how they looked and behaved, the addition of expository narration could have told us so much more. Statistics and other facts could have helped us put what we see into context and multiplied the use-value of the film. The absence of narration or other texts proves the artist's intent that we are intended to enjoy the film as a collection of beautiful appearances."[3]

In 2006, In the Street was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[6] A videotape version of the film was released in 1996,[7] but is apparently out of print.[8]


  1. ^ "Films Selected to the 2006 National Film Registry". The Library of Congress. September 8, 2008. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  2. ^ a b Farber, Manny (1998). Negative space: Manny Farber on the movies. Da Capo Press. pp. 45–46. ISBN 978-0-306-80829-6.  This book is a collection of Farber's reviews; the original review appeared in The Nation.
  3. ^ a b c Arden, Roy (2002). "Useless Reportage - Notes on Helen Levitt's In the Street" (PDF). Afterall (6). Retrieved 2010-10-09.  Arden also notes that In the Street was an influence on Stan Brakhage's and Andy Warhol's filmmaking.
  4. ^ From 1939 through 1967, Arthur Kleiner was the musical director for the film department of the New York Museum of Modern Art. He composed and performed piano scores for many silent films; his collection of 700 musical scores for silent films, which includes his own score for In the Street, is now archived at the University of Minnesota. See "Arthur Kleiner Collection". University of Minnesota. December 15, 1998. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  5. ^ Levitt, Helen (1987). In the Street: Chalk Drawings and Messages, New York City, 1938-1948. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-0771-5. 
  6. ^ "Films Added to National Film Registry for 2006" (Press release). The Library of Congress. December 27, 2006. Retrieved July 22, 2009. 
  7. ^ In the Street (Videotape). New York: Arthouse. 1996. 
  8. ^ "International Center of Photography - Store - In the Street". Retrieved 2010-10-07. 

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