Surrounded by new high-rise flats in London’s East End, plain-clothes detective Frank Collins (Ronald Howard) recalls how things were so different in the area in the late 1930s when it was an area of overcrowded tenements teeming with impoverished people with little or no hope.
Frank relates the story of attractive young Hetty Martin (Sylvia Syms) who lived in Kennedy Street with her mother, brother and a blind Irish chap called Bill (Liam Redmond) – who was annoyingly prone to playing the mouth organ.
Life was hard in Kennedy Street, and Hetty’s mother, Jess (Joan Miller) was endlessly urging her daughter to take up with local spiv Wilkie (Herbert Lom) – who runs the local bookies whilst handling stolen goods and indulging in other illicit pastimes – in the belief that this would rescue the family from their life of poverty.
Wilkie gives younger brother Tommy (Melvyn Hayes) a job to try and win Hetty over, but the young lad double-crosses Wilkie and goes on the run, armed with a gun.
Hetty eventually gives in to Wilkie and they become a couple – but when he humiliates her in front of the other residents of Kennedy Street to show his power over them, she will have nothing to do with him despite his repeated attempts to win her back.
Tommy shoots an old woman and comes home where Hetty and Wilkie try and persuade him to give himself up but he is accidentally killed with his own gun.
Hetty is seen years later, married to Frank as the slums are demolished to make way for the high rise flats.
J. Lee Thompson would go on to direct The Guns of Navarone (1961).
Detective Sergeant Frank Collins
J. Lee Thompson