Greek Street (US title Latin Lovers; UK, 1930) PD **
Sari Maritza makes her screen debut in this Gaumont-British production as Anna, an orphan singing in an Italian establishment in London. She falls for the owner, Rikki (William Freshman), but he takes great umbrage when she decides to accept an offer from Mansfield Yates (Martin Lewis) to become a star in his upscale establishment. Unfortunately, Yates expects more from Anna than she is ready to give and after having performed two production numbers to great acclaim, she leaves Yates and his high falutin' night spot in favor of returning to her humble beginnings and Rikki.
The only surprising aspect of this early talkie musical is not Sari Maritza's “amazing” way with the English language, which had already been thoroughly debunked, but how fluid the film moves. Early European talkies are supposed to be even more moribund than their Hollywood counterparts but that is certainly not in evidence here. In fact, the opening sequence, a long dolly shot through a crowded Italian restaurant, the camera occasionally picking out an interesting face or two among the spectators, is as good as anything American cinematographers were doing at the time. There is a second, similar, sequence that demonstrates Percy Strong's ability with a camera, this time following fuddy-duddy Sir George Ascot (Bert Coote, the father of Robert Coote who played the exact same type of characters in Hollywood movies of the 1940s) as he is pushed about by the throng in the very same establishment. Unfortunately, except for the obligatory kaleidoscopic view of chorus girls in action (and, no, Busby Berkeley did not invent the overhead shot of dancers cavorting), the production numbers are static and uninteresting. Especially if Sari Maritza's coloratura gets on your nerves as it did mine. The performances run the gamut from over-the-top (Australian actor William Freshman ladles on an Italian accent with a trowel) to underwhelming (Miss Maritza), but, if nothing else, Greek Street is worthwhile from a historical standpoint.