Saturday Night Cinema: Where the Sidewalk Ends


We are back to my great love when it comes to the movies, film noir. I went all in for tonight’s Saturday Night Cinema classic, Where the Sidewalk Ends. Heading the cast is my favorite tough guy, Dana Andrews, and the impossibly beautiful Gene Tierney. The pairing of these two is always a thrill. I was just a kid when I first saw them together in some hacked up, 4:30 movie version of the film noir classic Laura. That movie forever changed the way I saw cinema. My lifelong love of film noir began with those two (of course Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer in Out of the Past took it to a whole other level).

This film Where the Sidewalk Ends is packed with Geller favorites, including a screenplay by brilliant writer Ben Hecht and direction by Otto Preminger. Pop the champagne and popcorn, aesthetes, this one’s for you.

In Where the Sidewalk Ends, Dana Andrews is brutal metropolitan police detective Dixon, who despises all criminals because his father had been one. When the cops pick up two-bit gambler Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) as a murder suspect, Dixon subjects Paine to the third degree — and accidentally kills him. In disposing of the body, Dixon inadvertently places the blame for the killing on cab driver Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully). Having fallen in love with Jigg’s daughter, Morgan (Gene Tierney), Dixon tries to clear the cabbie without implicating himself, but ultimately he becomes trapped in a web of his own making; luckily Morgan promises to stand by him. Where the Sidewalk Ends was adapted from a novel by William L. Stuart; its director was Otto Preminger, who’d previously put Andrews and Tierney through their paces in Laura (1944).

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“The last of Otto Preminger’s studio pictures at Fox, this 1950 feature has many of the noirish qualities of his Laura and Fallen Angel: Dana Andrews, ambiguity about the characters’ dark undertones, and a fluid, fascinating mise en scene.” Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

By Bosley Crowther, July 8, 1950:
his graphically-presented account of a sadistic detective who accidentally kills a man and tries to pin it on a slippery public enemy doesn’t have the over-all trigger tension of “Kiss of Death” or the picturesqueness of “Cry of the City.” And the plausibility of the script by Ben Hecht, an old hand with station houses and sleazy underworldlings, is open to question on several counts. Not so, however, his pungent dialogue and unfolding of the plot, which Otto Preminger, who guided the same stars through “Laura” several seasons back, has taken to like a duck to water and kept clipping along crisply till the fadeout.Mr. Andrews is on the spot, and a spot it is. With a killer father in his past and constantly in the police departmental doghouse for banging the citizenry around, he fatally floors a fugitive with a lead plate in his head, a fine war record and some newspaper friends. His frenzied camouflaging is meant to point the finger at an ancient gangster foe but instead victimizes an innocent cab driver, Miss Tierney’s father. The showdown, a shoot-’em-up corralling of the gangsters in a huge garage, accidentally clears Mr. Andrews, and he’s the white-haired boy at headquarters. And, of course, Miss Tierney is all ready and waiting. But Mr. Andrews decides to spill the beans and marches off under arrest. Mr. Hecht, take a deep bow!The most winning things in the picture are the minor characterizations: Tom Tully as the cabbie, Ruth Donnelly as a tart-tongued hash-slinger, Bert Freed as Mr. Andrews’ disapproving pal. Gary Merrill, as the intended victim, is one of the most convincing gangsters since Scarface. Mr. Preminger’s megaphoning and some expert photography have resulted in a most vivid blend of action and New York City backgrounds.Miss Tierney is lovely, as usual, and even works up a little animation for a change. But it must be said that Mr. Andrews, who bears the brunt of the picture, performs more intelligently than convincingly. Even with a bulldog mouth, he looks much too level-headed to be a natural-born sadist. Again, it is doubtful if a man of his supposed calibre would give himself up to justice so valiantly. But the real eyebrow-raiser is the scene where the boys at the station house swoop down like triumphant hawks on the naive, open-faced cabbie

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