Elmer Rice: Street Scene


Today is the birthday of the great American playwright Elmer Rice (Elmer Reizenstein, 1892-1967). While he wrote dozens of successful plays, Rice’s reputation today rests principally on just two: the expressionistic experiment The Adding Machine (1922), and the path-breaking urban realism tour de force Street Scene (1929). Street Scene‘s affectionate stereotyping of the various ethnicities living in a New York slum dates the play just a little but the tragic story arc and moral force of the drama are still strong.

King Vidor made a wonderfully powerful film of it in 1931; the Duchess and I re-watched it last night and relished every minute. And you can too, because, here it is (this version is captioned for the deaf). Marx Brothers fans will be glad to see David Landau from Horse Feathers in the central role of Mr. Maurrant.

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