Side street (film)

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German title Side street
Original title Back Street
Country of production United States
original language English
Publishing year 1941
length 89 minutes
Director Robert Stevenson
script Bruce Manning
Felix Jackson
production Bruce Manning
Frank Shaw
for Universal Pictures
music Frank Skinner
camera William Daniels
cut Ted Kent

Seitenstrasse (original title Back Street ) is an American feature film from 1941 directed by Robert Stevenson . Charles Boyer and Margaret Sullavan star in this tragic story, which begins at the beginning of the 20th century and takes place between the banker Walter Saxel and Ray Smith, the daughter of a textile merchant . Fannie Hurst's novel Back Street (New York, 1931) forms the basis for the film adaptation.


At the turn of the century, the budding automobile manufacturer Curt Stanton demonstrates his new car, which no longer needs horses, at a parade in Cincinnati . Stanton's plan to draw attention to himself in order to attract new donors fails, however, when the vehicle stops in front of a bank with a loud roar. The young man pushes the car back to his bike shop amid the mockery of bystanders. Only Ray Smith, who was in the car, tries to comfort him.

When Ray accompanies friends, including Ed Porter, to the train station that evening, she meets the investment banker Walter Saxel. It's love at first sight for both of them. Saxel even postponed his intended trip to New Orleans . When Ray learns that Saxel is bound and a break with his girlfriend, his boss's niece, would ruin him professionally and socially, she is deeply disappointed. A momentous misunderstanding between the two then leads to them losing sight of each other.

Five years have passed when Walter runs into Ray in New York . Although Walter is now married and has a young son, Ray becomes his lover. She moves into a small apartment on a side street that Walter has rented under the name "Smith". Two more years have passed when Ray's friend Ed Porter finds her and tries to break her relationship with Walter. He offers her a job as a fashion designer. However, Ray refuses. When Walter is sent on a long business trip to Europe by his uncle shortly afterwards and his wife and child accompany him, the time in which Ray waits for his return drags on forever. When Curt Stanton, who is now a successful man in the auto industry, visits Ray in town and confesses his love for her, the young woman is insecure. When she fled to her apartment, she was delighted to find Walter there. However, the feeling of happiness tends to be short-lived when she learns that Walter's wife had a daughter during the couple's long absence. Although Ray decides to leave Walter and accept Curt's proposal, but cannot withstand Walter's insistence and lets himself into him again.

Years have passed when Walter travels to Europe again with his family in 1928, where he is supposed to head an American banking commission in Geneva. This time Ray is also on board, whose relationship with Walter is no longer a secret. While Walter is at the conference, his son Richard visits Ray. When the banker returns earlier than expected and wants to tell his son about his long-term love for Ray, he encounters incomprehension and reluctance. After Richard leaves, Ray learns that the commission broke up with him because of his relationship with her. Walter is battered and consoled Ray that they will see each other the next day. In the morning Ray had to find out from the newspaper that Walter had suffered a severe stroke. Shortly afterwards she receives a call from Walter, who dies during the conversation. Days later, Richard visits Ray at her apartment and this time he listens as she speaks of her love for his father. Ray dies shortly afterwards with Walter's picture in his arms.

Production and Background

The film was shot from October 30 to the end of December 1940. On February 4, 1941, the film was premiered in the USA at the Lincoln Theater in Miami , Florida . Universal star Deanna Durbin was among the premiere guests . On February 7, 1941, the film ran generally in US cinemas. In Austria it came to the cinema on December 29, 1945 under the title In der Seitengasse . On February 10, 1950, it was performed again, this time under the title Seitengassen des Lebens . In Germany, the film was shown for the first time on October 28, 1981 in the DFF .

Joan Fontaine had already accepted the role of Ray Smith, but it went to Margaret Sullavan. The Hollywood Reporter reported in March 1941 that the film had been booked as a huge hit for Universal. Margaret Sullavan and Charles Boyer got together again in the 1941 film comedy session for love .

The film is a remake of the 1932 film of the same name , which was made under the direction of John M. Stahl and starred with Irene Dunne and John Boles . Another film adaptation called Endstation Paris with Susan Hayward and John Gavin and directed by David Miller was released in 1961.

Originally called Fannie Hurst's novel Grand Passion (German Large Passion ) and was first as a monthly series in Cosmopolitan magazine published. The novel then appeared under the title Backstreet ( side street ). Hollywood showed early interest in the subject matter of a single woman who has to live in the shadows because of her relationship with a married man. Universal Studios acquired the book rights in 1931 for $ 30,000. Fannie Hurst disagreed with Charles Boyer's choice to play Walter. The studio then assigned the task of writing a screenplay for a film adaptation to Bruce Manning. Although the film was hugely successful and enjoyed great public popularity, Hurst held on to their aversion even after its release. Another difficulty the studio faced came from Joseph Breen of the Production Code Administration , who was concerned that the film could romanticize adultery and put a plethora of restrictions on those responsible to ensure that Walter and Ray had a worse life because of their affair than without. This included that Ray was shown mostly poor and lonely and Walter was the hunted between his appointments, his family and his lover. In addition, there were no intimate love scenes between the two. The audience was to be shown that anyone involved in this tragic affair had to pay a heavy price for it. The version from 1941 is still considered the best today and was also awarded an Oscar nomination.


For the lexicon of international film, it was "Hollywood entertainment of the sentimental kind".

Bosley Crowther of the New York Times found that Miss Sullavan's capacity for suffering was infinite and that the film was a colorful and pleasantly nostalgic retelling of the old Fannie Hurst novel, the film adaptation of which had already been crowned with success in 1932. The film presses on the tear glands and is the quintessence of a woman's image with regard to renunciation and modesty.

In Variety's rating, it is said that the second film adaptation retained the tearful qualities of the original work. Margaret Sullavan provides a strong and sympathetic characterization full of love and devotion as a willing sacrifice. Charles Boyer's portrayal is skillful and cautious in his portrayal of a man who has to share his affection and time between wife and lover.


At the 1942 Academy Awards , Frank Skinner was nominated for an Oscar in the category “Best Film Music in a Drama” . However, the statue went to Bernard Herrmann and the fantasy film The Devil and Daniel Webster .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Back Street notes at TCM - Turner Classic Movies (English)
  2. Back Street Articles TCM - Turner Classic Movies (English)
  3. side street. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed June 18, 2017 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  4. Bosley Crowther: Back Street (1941) “Back Street”, a Sentimental Romance, With Charles Boyer and Margaret Sullavan In: The New York Times, February 12, 1941 (English). Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  5. Review: 'Back Street' Variety, December 31, 1940 (English). Retrieved January 21, 2015.