ABC Film Review, 1/63

p. 32

James Booth co-stars in "Sparrows Can't Sing"


Although Sparrows Can't Sing has authentic settings and a serious-sounding theme, it is not  a problem picture but a comedy.  There is nothing grim about the handling of a subject that is after all universal, and the story is, in fact, told with beguiling humour, imaginativeness and tolerance.  The star, James Booth, gets his biggest acting chance to date as the seaman Charlie Gooding who, returning home to find himself ousted from his former position there, in some ways resembles the hero of a Western.  Six feet four inches tall and tipping the scales at fourteen stone, Booth certainly looks the part.  Like everyone else in the cast, he has spent an important part of his career at Theatre Workshop.   He has also played at the Old Vic and on the West End stage, and appeared in a number of films including The Trials of Oscar Wilde, Jazz Boat and In the Nick.

Others heading the Theatre Workshop cast are George Sewell (who plays the bus driver with whom Maggie Gooding is unfaithful to her husband), Barbara Ferris, Avis Bunnage, Roy Kinnear and Murray Melvin.  Avis Bunnage has recently been featured in The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner and The L-Shaped Room.  Murray Melvin's performance in A Taste of Honey won him international acclaim and a top Cannes Festival award. 

Produced by Donald Taylor and directed by Joan Littlewood for Elstree Distributors Ltd. and future Warner-Pathe release, Sparrows Can't Sing covers territory entirely new to the screen for, strangely enough, the East End has not yet been the subject of one of those incisive "new wave" films that are suddenly all the rage.  It also gets there just in time, for the whole area is being transformed, and it is a different Stepney that greets the sailor home from the sea after an absence of two years.