Side Street (1950 film)

Side Street is a 1950 American crime film noir/police procedural directed by Anthony Mann.[3]

Side Street
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnthony Mann
Produced bySam Zimbalist
Written bySydney Boehm
StarringFarley Granger
Cathy O'Donnell
James Craig
Jean Hagen
Narrated byPaul Kelly
Music byLennie Hayton
CinematographyJoseph Ruttenberg
Edited byConrad A. Nervig
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • December 14, 1949 (1949-12-14) (United States)
Running time
83 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$777,000[2]

The motion picture was filmed on location throughout New York City and culminated in one of the first modern car chases, prior to 1968's Bullitt. Part of the story is set in the vicinity of the long-demolished Third Avenue El, a favorite location of the few films made in the city during that era.

The cast features Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell for the second and last time; their earlier film was the noted noir They Live By Night (1948).


Joe Norson (Granger) lives with his wife and her parents in New York City, after losing his gas station, and has found work as a part-time mail carrier. Because he wants the best for his expectant wife, Ellen (O'Donnell), Joe rationalizes stealing what he thinks is $200 from a lawyer's office on his route. He discovers that he's actually stolen $30,000 from Victor Backett (Edmund Ryan), a corrupt attorney. Backett has framed wealthy broker/patsy Emil Lorrison (Paul Harvey) in a sex scandal, then extorted the money from him with the help of Lucille "Lucky" Colner (Adele Jergens) and ex-con accomplice Georgie Garsell (James Craig).

From the start, Joe begins to panic. He explains his new-found wealth to Ellen as a lucrative out-of-town job, then disguises the money as a package and leaves it with bartender Nick Drumman (Ed Max). In the meantime Lucille's body is found in the East River, strangled, and Captain Walter Anderson (Paul Kelly) of the New York Police Department investigates the murder. Both Lorrison and Backett are interviewed, their names having been found in Lucille's "love diary." After the birth of his child, Joe decides to try to return his ill-gotten gain, but Backett suspects a trap and refuses the offer. Backett instead sends Garsell and a taxi cab driver associate to grab Joe and recover the cash. Joe is able to escape after they discover that Drumman has substituted a nightgown in the package and gone into hiding with the money.

Joe looks for Drumman, but Garsell finds the bartender first, strangles him, and recovers the money. Joe confesses the original theft to Ellen, who urges him to turn himself in, but he finds himself a suspect in Drumman's murder. He tries to track down the source of the money to clear himself, even as Captain Anderson methodically pursues both men as suspects: Garsell for Lucille and Joe for Drumman. Joe locates Garsell's girlfriend, singer Harriet Sinton (Jean Hagen), but she betrays him to Garsell. Garsell plans to murder Joe and strangles Harriet to eliminate her as a witness. Captain Anderson is hot on their heels and a chase ensues through the early morning streets of New York. Garsell kills his partner and forces Joe to drive, but Joe deliberately crashes the taxi to end the nightmare. When Garsell tries to run out of the car, he is shot by the police and killed. Joe is carried out of the car by the police and taken into the ambulance. Ellen arrives just before he leaves for the hospital, and they embrace. Joe survives the accident; the police are able to learn the truth, so he is cleared.



According to MGM records the film made $448,000 in the US and Canada and $323,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss to the studio of $467,000.[2]

Critical response

When the film was screened in New York City in 2006 as part of Film Forum's festival devoted to the "B Noir" films of the 1940s and 1950s, film critic Ed Gonzalez for Slant magazine, reviewed the film and found he liked the picture's mise en scène and screenplay, writing, "...Side Street is a triumph of visual savvy and moral exactitude—-a scurrying spectacle of dog-cat-and-mouse throughout the veiny streets of New York City. The Big Apple comes alive via a nervy mix of photojournalistic shots of people on the move and hieratic [formal] compositions that give the squeeze to Farley Granger's Joe Norton..."[4]

Critic Nathan Gelgud said, "Because it's an Anthony Mann movie, Side Street is similarly interested in detail, as well as great action sequences and even greater locations. The best stuff is inside a bar where Farley Granger leaves a bundle of stolen money. The scenes in the bar are the ones that come immediately to mind when you think of Side Street because the details are spot-on, and Mann constructs the place with the depth of the academy frame he’s so good at utilizing."[5]


  1. "Side Street - Movie Detail". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved 18 October 2017.
  2. The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  3. Side Street at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  4. Gonzalez, Ed. Slant Magazine, "B Noir", film review, May 5, 2006. Accessed: August 2, 2013.
  5. Gelgud, Nathan. New York Film Review, "Scenes From a Bar", August 21, 2007. Accessed: August 2, 2013.
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