Jingan Young


There is currently a lack of scholarship on Jewish cinema in Britain. As Kevin Gough-Yates has shown, films with Jewish themes are also absent from the postwar period. This article seeks to address this issue by identifying two unique Jewish protagonists who feature in films set in Soho, a historically cosmopolitan center. The character Johnny Jackson (Laurence Harvey) in Expresso Bongo (Val Guest, 1960) is representative of the postwar spiv/wide boy, but he is also, in the words of director Val Guest, “part Soho, part Jewish.” Postwar British cinema would depict another Jewish Soho wide boy three years later, imagined by Ken Hughes in his film The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963). This article is concerned with the cinematic representation of the characters Johnny Jackson and Sammy Lee, the actors who play them (Harvey and Anthony Newley, respectively), and their relationship to the Jewish immigrant community in London’s Soho and surrounding peripheries.