This is a charming story about a small boy's indomitable trust and optimism in a confused world, set in East London's "Fashion Street" (Petticoat Lane Market) in the early 1950s. The bustle and hustle of street-trading life is contrasted with philosophical humour and wisdom. The philosopher is Avron Kandinsky, a "simple" Trouser Maker played by David Kossoff, who is given some deep wisdom to impart to Joe, a small boy who is waiting (with his mother, Celia Johnson) for his father to come back from Africa.
The screen-play, though very touching, is offset with much humour. Sid James, Alfie Bass and Irene Handle add zest in that respect.
The boy is a failed pet-owner; Kandinsky's back yard is littered with pet-graves. Joe acquires a runt kid with only one horn, thinking it must be a unicorn; which, as we all know, can grant wishes. So Joe bestows wishes with abandon upon all his friends. His child's optimism proves true (ah! the power of make-believe!) and leads to the happy ending the story deserves.
Climactic action is provided by a wrestling match - a grudge fight between Joe's friend (Joe Robinson aka "Mr Universe") and a bully of a professional wrestler. Diana Dors, in her delectable prime, simmers and shimmers as Joe Robinson's love interest - and the catalyst for the grudge!
Naturally, the "unicorn" suffers the same fate as all of Joe's previous pets, but not before doing its stuff for Joe.
This beautiful little film, typical of Carol Reed, is more than a cameo of Petticoat Lane as it was. It has hidden depths that surface with subsequent viewing. The recurrence of the dome of St. Paul's throughout the film is nicely rounded off in the final scene, as Mr Kandisky, sinking slowly into the West, offers his last wise pearl - "Unicorns can't grow up in Fashion Street, but boys have to".....