No Trees in the Street

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No Trees in the Street
"No Trees in the Street" (1959).jpg
Directed by J. Lee Thompson
Written by Ted Willis
Produced by Frank Godwin
J. Lee Thompson
Ted Willis
Starring Sylvia Syms
Herbert Lom
Stanley Holloway
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor
Edited by Richard Best
Music by Laurie Johnson
Distributed byAssociated British-Pathé (UK),
Seven Arts (US)
Release dates
1959 (UK)
1964 (US)
Running time
96 min.
CountryUnited Kingdom

No Trees in the Street is a 1959 British crime thriller directed by J. Lee Thompson and written by Ted Willis, from his 1948 stage play of the same name. [1] [2]


The film is set in the slums of London. It depicts the life of impoverished teenager Tommy, who becomes a criminal in an attempt at social mobility. He starts with minor thefts and progresses to murder. A subplot involves the romantic involvements of Tommy's sister Hetty, first with a racketeer and then with a policeman.

The film is another example of British kitchen sink realism, but is mainly noted for its naturalistic depiction of slum life.


Initially, the film's story is told by Frank (Ronald Howard) a local plain clothes policeman in love with Hetty (Sylvia Syms), to a young tearaway Kenny (David Hemmings).

In the slums of London before World War II, Tommy (Melvyn Hayes) is an aimless teenager who tries to escape his squalid surroundings by entering a life of crime. He falls in with local racketeer Wilkie (Herbert Lom), who holds the rest of the slum citizens - including Tommy's own family - in a grip of fear.

For a brief period, Hetty (Tommy's older sister) becomes Wilkie's girlfriend until he humiliates her in front of the other slum citizens simply to show his power over them, after which she will have nothing to do with Wilkie despite him repeatedly asking her to come back to him.

The film chronicles Tommy's sordid progression from minor thefts to murder. [3]

At the end of the film, Hetty and Frank are seen to be married and living in a new council flat long after the slums have been demolished.



Ted Willis based his script on his 1948 play of the same name. [4]

Willis and J. Lee Thompson and Sylvia Syms had previously collaborated together on Woman in a Dressing Gown .

Filming began 10 March 1958. [5] The film was revised after previews, with new scenes added at the opening, and at the end showing the detective married the sister. [6]

Critical reception

TV Guide wrote "NO TREES suffers from artificiality of plot and dialog. Characterizations are reduced to mere stereotypes...There are some notable exceptions within the drama, however. Syms is surprisingly moving, giving a sensitive performance despite the film's constraints. Holloway's characterization of a bookie's tout is comical and charming...The camerawork attempts a realistic documentary look, which manages to succeed in capturing the details of slum life that make the setting seem surprisingly naturalistic. The finer points of the film, however, are overshadowed by its faults." [7]

Time Out wrote "released at a time when kitchen sink drama was all the rage, this is an unremarkable 'we had it tough' chronicle from another age." [8]

Variety wrote "Ted Willis is a writer with a sympathetic eye for problems of the middle and lower classes...Syms gives a moving performance as the gentle girl who refuses to marry the cheap racketeer just to escape. Lom, as the opportunist who dominates the street, is sufficiently suave and unpleasant." [9]

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  1. Peter Cotes (24 December 1992). "Obituary: Lord Willis - People - News" . The Independent. Archived from the original on 21 June 2022. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  2. "No Trees in the Street | BFI | BFI". Archived from the original on 14 July 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  3. "No Trees in the Street (1958) - Trailers, Reviews, Synopsis, Showtimes and Cast". AllMovie. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  4. Momma And Mum Brown, Ivor. The Observer (1901- 2003); London (UK) [London (UK)]01 Aug 1948: 2.
  5. "Studio Round Up". Kine Weekly. 20 February 1958. p. 21.
  6. Harper, Sue; Porter, Vincent (2003). British Cinema of The 1950s The Decline of Deference. Oxford University Press USA. p. 87.
  7. "No Trees In The Street Review". Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  8. "No Trees in the Street | review, synopsis, book tickets, showtimes, movie release date | Time Out London". 4 November 2007. Retrieved 4 April 2014.
  9. "No Trees in the Street". Variety. 31 December 1958. Retrieved 4 April 2014.