Thursday, 11 March 2010

Sparrows Can't Sing

"Aint't it a shame sparrows can't sing. Think of the joy sparrows might bring. But all they can do is fly and fly and fly ..." Sparrows Can't Sing is a 1963 film set in and around Stepney. It's a real gem, directed by Joan Littlewood, so it has close links to her Theatre Workshop in Stratford East. The film evolved from a play written by Stephen Lewis, who is better known now as Blakey from On The Buses or Smiler from Last of the Summer Wine. His roots are in east London though, and he has remained a life-long socialist. Tony Benn in his Diaries mentions going out on the campaign trail with him. Among the other people in the film who would go on to become key figures on TV are Brian Murphy, Yootha Joyce, Roy Kinnear, Victor Spinetti, Arthur Mullard and Bob Grant. There are all sorts of reasons to love the film, from the blitz scarred landscape to the experimental dialogue. There are some wonderful cameos too, such as Queenie Watts' turn and Murray Melvin's suits. The sparrow metaphor is implicit rather than overdone, though I doubt anyone could have anticipated how appropriate the casting of Barbara Windsor in the role of Maggie would be, given the cockney institution she became. Lionel Bart wrote the title song, which Babs got to sing ...

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