Where the Sidewalk Ends (film)
Where the Sidewalk Ends is a 1950 American film noir directed and produced by Otto Preminger. The screenplay for the film was written by Ben Hecht, and adapted by Robert E. Kent, Frank P. Rosenberg, and Victor Trivas. The screenplay and adaptations were based on the novel Night Cry by William L. Stuart. The film stars Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney.
|Where the Sidewalk Ends|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Otto Preminger|
|Produced by||Otto Preminger|
|Screenplay by||Ben Hecht|
|Based on||Night Cry|
by William L. Stuart
|Music by||Cyril Mockridge|
|Edited by||Louis Loeffler|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Box office||$1 million|
The film narrative concerns ruthless and cynical Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews), a metropolitan police detective, who despises all criminals because his father had been one. Considered a classic of the film noir genre, the film displays a brand of violence, "lurking below urban society", that is an important noir motif.
At a floating crap game in New York City run by gangster Tommy Scalisi (Gary Merrill), the beautiful Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney) decides to leave for the night, and Texas tycoon Morrison (Harry von Zell) offers to escort her home. Scalisi is clearly upset, as Morrison is up $19,000 at this point. Morrison just says he is in town all week and "you'll get it back another night", but Scalisi's associate Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) tells Morgan she has to stay. She realizes he only brought her to the game so Morrison would follow, and now is determined to leave.
Paine slaps Morgan, whereupon Morrison starts a fistfight with Paine. Morrison is knocked out, but when the police arrive he has been stabbed to death.
One of the police detectives is Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews), who was just demoted over his heavy use of violence. He hates criminals because his father was one. Two years ago he arrested Scalisi for murder, but Scalisi was acquitted.
Scalisi tells several lies about the crime, and implicates Paine. Dixon goes to Paine's apartment and questions him, but Paine becomes angry and they fight briefly. But, unknown to Dixon, a war injury has left Paine with a metal plate in his skull. When he falls, he hits his head and dies.
After his recent reprimand, Dixon does not dare report what happened. Borrowing Paine's coat and putting on a bandage where Paine had one on, he lays a false trail suggesting that Paine has left town. Back at Paine's apartment, he is almost seen by Morgan's father, cab driver Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully), who arrives and noisily threatens Paine, then leaves when there is no answer. Dixon then takes the body and dumps it in the river. It is soon found, but he suggests that Scalisi murdered Paine as well as Morrison.
As the case develops, the detectives talk to Morgan and Jiggs Taylor. Morgan is Paine's estranged wife; the night of the murder is the only time she has seen him in months. She and Dixon begin to fall in love. But although Dixon insists that Scalisi is the killer, Jiggs was seen at Paine's apartment and he is arrested. Dixon cannot bear to tell Morgan the truth, but he arranges to pay for a top lawyer for Jiggs, one who has never lost a murder case; however, the lawyer rejects the case, as he thinks he would lose this one.
After a fruitless confrontation with Scalisi, Dixon writes a confession, addressing the envelope to Inspector Foley (Robert F. Simon) and marking it "to be opened in the event of my death". He then arranges to meet with Scalisi again, fully expecting to be murdered but reasoning that this time Scalisi will be caught for it; but Scalisi has anticipated this, too, and has realized what happened to Paine. He refuses to kill Dixon. Then one of Scalisi's men arrives with the news that the police have beaten the truth about Morrison out of another gang member. As the gang try to escape in a car elevator, Dixon manages to delay them by stalling it until the police arrive.
Back at the 16th Precinct, Foley offers Dixon the unopened letter, but Dixon tells him to read it. Foley arrestes Dixon. Morgan asks why, and Dixon asks Foley to show her the letter. Knowing the truth, she still loves him, and declares confidently that he will not be punished for the accidental death.
- Dana Andrews as Detective Sgt. Mark Dixon
- Gene Tierney as Morgan Taylor-Paine
- Gary Merrill as Tommy Scalisi
- Bert Freed as Detective Sgt. Paul Klein (Dixon's partner)
- Tom Tully as Jiggs Taylor, Morgan's father
- Karl Malden as Detective Lt. Thomas
- Ruth Donnelly as Martha, owner of Martha's Cafe
- Craig Stevens as Kenneth Paine
Where the Sidewalk Ends is the last film that Otto Preminger would make as a director-for-hire for Twentieth Century Fox in the 1940s. The series includes Laura, which also stars Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews, Whirlpool, and Fallen Angel.
The film was primarily shot on a studio set, but the filmmakers also shot a few scenes at actual New York City locations.
Most critics compare the film unfavorably to Preminger's earlier film Laura which used much of the same talent as this film. According to film writers, this film, a grittier noir, does succeed in showing a darker side of police similar to the film noirs that follow it.
The New York Times film critic, Bosley Crowther, while thinking the script was too far-fetched, liked the way the dialogue was written, and the acting as well. He wrote, "...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."
The staff at Variety magazine praised the direction of the film. They wrote, "Otto Preminger, director, does an excellent job of pacing the story and of building sympathy for Andrews." Harrison's Reports called the film "one of the most taut and absorbing crime melodramas produced in many a moon," with "exceptionally good" dialogue. John McCarten of The New Yorker, however, only deemed it to be "a fair-to-middling-melodrama."
According to Boris Trbic, scriptwriter and media instructor, Where the Sidewalk Ends reflects a specific phase in the development of the film noir style. The large film production companies in the early 1950s backed away from the social-problem drama, and instead made "low-budget and low-risk thrillers" such as: Panic in the Streets, No Way Out, this film, and others. As such, they avoided the "wrath of conservative critics and social watchdogs."
The Academy Film Archive preserved Where the Sidewalk Ends in 2004.
- Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century-Fox: A Corporate and Financial History Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 p 223
- Variety film review; June 28, 1950, page 6.
- Harrison's Reports film review; July 1, 1950, page 102.
- Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, eds. Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style, film noir analysis by Carl Mecek, page 310, 3rd edition, 1992. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press. ISBN 0-87951-479-5.
- Otto Preminger on IMDb
- Jamieson, Wendell (2 December 2005). "Right Out of Film Noir, a Shadowy New York". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
- Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times, film review, July 8, 1950. Last accessed: February 1, 2008.
- Variety. Staff film review, June 28, 1950. p. 6
- "'Where the Sidewalk Ends' with Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney". Harrison's Reports: 102. July 1, 1950.
- McCarten, John (July 15, 1950). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 63.
- Trbic, Boris. Senses of Cinema, 2000.
- "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
- Where the Sidewalk Ends at the American Film Institute Catalog
- Where the Sidewalk Ends on IMDb
- Where the Sidewalk Ends at AllMovie
- Where the Sidewalk Ends at the TCM Movie Database
- Where the Sidewalk Ends trailer on YouTube
- Where the Sidewalk Ends "Night Cry", radio adaptation of original source material for Suspense show—1948