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This film was first released in Great Britain in July 1938 by Associated British Picture Corp. under the title St. Martin's Lane. Intermediate titles were Partners of the Night and London After Dark. On December 4, 1939, the title was changed to Sidewalks of London for the film's American release. The title card on the viewed print read: "Charles Laughton in City of Westminster St. Martins Lane." John Maxwell, who formed Mayflower Pictures with Erich Pommer and Laughton, financed the company for the production of three films, of which Sidewalks of London was the second (see also the above entries for The Beachcomber and Jamaica Inn). The viewed print states that Vivien Leigh and Rex Harrison were used "By permission of London Film Productions, Inc.," which was run by Alexander Korda. The print also credited distribution to Corinth Films, Inc., although no evidence that the film was distributed in the 1930s by this company has been found. No copyright entry was found for this film.
According to press material, the release of the film, which helped Leigh win the role of Scarlett O'Hara, was purposefully held up in the United States by Paramount until after the opening of Gone With the Wind. According to a news item in Hollywood Reporter, on the night of the picture's preview, to which Leigh had invited all "Leighs" in Los Angeles, the actress had the flu and sent her stand-in to sign autographs in her place. According to a Hollywood Reporter news item on January 30, 1940, Leigh was reportedly thrilled by the American press's reaction to the film and happily agreed to pose for stills, which she had at first been reluctant to do. The film's program notes that Laughton "resorted to Machiavellian tactics" to get Korda to agree to allow Leigh to do the role. The program says Laughton "smuggled a copy of the script to the actress and let her do the rest." At the time, Leigh was receiving laurels for her performance in Ashley Duke's West End play The Mask of Virtue.
The Luna Boys, real buskers (British street entertainers), were hired, according to press material, as technical advisors as well as actors in the film. Actors Gus McNaughton and Tyrone Guthrie were also once real buskers, according to the film's program. Carroll Gibbons was the leader of a famous dance orchestra, which performed at the Savoy Hotel in London for years. Although in the film, Laughton's character refers to the poem he repeatedly recites as "The Green Eye of the Little Yellow God," by Milton Hayes, some sources refer to the poem as "The Green Eye of the Yellow God." Hollywood screenwriter Bart Cormack, who plays "Strang" in this film, scripted The Beachcomber for Laughton.
According to modern sources, Laughton frequented St. Martin's Lane and Shaftesbury Avenue in order to do live busker research. A modern biography of Laughton states that much of Clemence Dane's script was rewritten by Tim Whelan, Cormack, Laughton and Pommer, and that Dane declined to take credit for the screenplay when the picture was released, although he is credited on the screen. According to the biography, actual queueing theatergoers in London's West End were used as extras in the film, and London locations included Cambridge Circus, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly Circus and St. Martin's Lane. This film was re-issued in 1949 by the British company Renown Pictures Corp.