Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950): Preminger’s Quintessential Film Noir, Starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney

Director Otto Preminger reteamed its two stars of the 1944 Laura, Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, in Where the Sidewalk Ends, a quintessentially crime noir, shot in stylized black and white.   (Showing strong chemistry, Andrews and Tierney made five films together).
Adapting to the screen the novel by William L. Stuart, scribe Ben Hecht (and others who contributed to the final version) built into the narrative a strong Freudian angle, a protagonist who suffers from Oedipal complex. 

Dana Andrews is well cast as brutal metropolitan police detective Dixon, who despises all criminals because his father had been one.  He has been demoted by his superiors for his heavy-handed tactics.  

His father got killed when he was 17, trying to escape from prison.  In a later scene in the movie, Dixon says, “I worked all my life to be different from him.”
When the cops pick up two-bit gambler Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) as a murder suspect, Dixon subjects Paine to the third degree. he strikes the drunken Paine in self-defense and accidentally kills him. Paine, however, had a silver plate in his head, a war record, and newspaper friends. Dixon then dumps Paine’s body in the river, and is later assigned to find his killer.
Dixon tries to place the blame on an old gangster enemy, Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill), but inadvertently puts cab driver Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully) under suspicion. Having fallen in love with Jiggs’ daughter and Paine’s estranged wife, Morgan Taylor-Paine (Gene Tierney), Dixon tries to clear the cabbie without implicating himself, but ultimately becomes tangled in a web of his own creation. The 16th Precinct commander and Dixon’s boss, newly promoted Detective Lt. Thomas (Karl Malden), are convinced that Morgan’s father is the killer.

Dixon continues to find a way to stop Jiggs from being found guilty of murdering Paine, while also trying to redeem himself.  He sits down and writes a note that implicates him, confessing to his own real motivation.

In an attempt to move the evidence away from Morgan’s father and blame Scalise, Dixon encounters the gangster and his cronies. A shoot-out leaves Dixon wounded, but the police arrive to arrest Scalise and his mob. Jiggs is finally cleared of the charges.

In the end, Dixon is forgiven by his boss and even promoted.  But Dixon asks his officer to open the confessional letter and read it loud in Morgan’s presence.  Though he is put under arrest, it is implied that Morgan believes it was an accident and will be waiting for him.

Stylistically, the film contains an unusually large number of close-ups and even mega close-ups.

Note:

In 1950, Gary Merrill made a stronger impact in All About Eve, playing Bette Davis’s director and lover (the two got married after the picture).

Cast

Dana Andrews as Detective Sgt. Mark Dixon

Gene Tierney as Morgan Taylor-Paine

Gary Merrill as Tommy Scalise

Bert Freed as Detective Sgt. Paul Klein

Tom Tully as Jiggs Taylor, Morgan’s father

Karl Malden as Detective Lt. Thomas

Ruth Donnelly as Martha

Craig Stevens as Kenneth Paine

 

Credits:
20th Century Fox
Release:
Running time: 95 Minutes

 

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