Lion Is in The Streets, A (1953)

Lion Is in The Streets, A (1953)

“Sometimes a man ain’t got time for common sense.”

In the Deep South, a street peddler (Jimmy Cagney) marries a schoolteacher (Barbara Hale) and has an affair with an adoring teenager (Anne Francis) while pursuing a career in politics and growing increasingly compromised in his ideals.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anne Francis Films
  • Barbara Hale Films
  • Deep South
  • Jimmy Cagney Films
  • John McIntire Films
  • Lon Chaney, Jr. Films
  • Political Corruption
  • Raoul Walsh Films

It’s easy to see why both Jimmy Cagney and Raoul Walsh later preferred not to discuss their involvement in this clunker of a political melodrama, loosely based on the life of Huey Long (though by the time it was released, Robert Rossen’s All the Kings’ Men had already covered the same territory to award-winning acclaim). It comes across as a weird sort of vanity project, showcasing Cagney as a charismatic but poor peddler who somehow manages to sweep naive Hale off her feet:

… while maintaining the undying love of Francis (playing a bayou girl named “Flamingo”), who is upset to learn he’s gotten married and doesn’t consider that any kind of barrier to them spending their life together.

The crux of the storyline focuses on Cagney’s attempt to expose a local cotton company owner (Larry Keating) of cheating, and the trouble his friend Jeb Brown (John McIntire) gets into when things unintentionally turn violent.

Unfortunately, Cagney doesn’t seem to realize how addicted he is to power and success, eventually viewing his own political ascension as worthy of cheating and lying. The film is filled with ripe dialogue (“I’ll always be there waiting — belonging to you like a mule in a barn!”) and ludicrous scenarios that defy belief (i.e., the entire crocodile scene):

… but it all becomes morbidly fascinating during the final ten minutes or so, when we suddenly see events playing out in a fashion eerily reminiscent of recent American history.

Watch for Lon Chaney, Jr. as Francis’s dad:

… and Jimmy’s sister Jeanne in a pivotal supporting role as McIntire’s wife:

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Harry Stradling’s cinematography

Must See?
Nope; you can skip this one unless you’re curious.


One thought on “Lion Is in The Streets, A (1953)

  1. Not must-see. I’d seen this once before; more or less skimmed through on a ‘rewatch’. It can definitely take a back seat to ‘All the King’s Men’.

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