Another old black and white noir movie today – the 1950 crime thriller from director Otto Preminger (“The Man With The Golden Arm”, “Laura”) called “Where The Sidewalk Ends”.
The film was based on a 1948 crime novel entitled “Night Cry” by American author William L. Stuart, with a screenplay by Ben Hecht (“Notorious”, “Spellbound”).
At the 16th Precinct in New York City, police detective Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews – “Canyon Passage”, “Laura”) is a man that is violently opposed to criminals – largely because his own father had been a crook.
He is regularly referred to as “Sandy Dixon’s son” and struggles to contain his temper with suspects, leading him to get a dressing down from his boss Lt. Thomas (Karl Malden – “On The Waterfront”, “A Streetcar Named Desire”).
One night a gambler named Ken Paine (Craig Stevens – “Peter Gunn”, “The Deadly Mantis”) takes another man, Mr. Morrison, to a craps game hosted by gangster Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill – “All About Eve”, “Twelve O’Clock High”).
Paine used his estranged wife, model Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney – “Whirlpool”, “Laura”), as bait to get Morrison to tag along but when Morrison wins big from Scalise and tries to leave it leads to an altercation between first Paine and his wife (who immediately leaves) and then between Paine and Morrison.
After Paine has also left we see Dixon and his partner being called to a hotel where they arrive to find Morrison dead – stabbed. Scalise, who is responsible for the murder, claims that Paine was responsible and so Dixon is sent off to track him down.
Paine denies any wrongdoing when Dixon finds him but when Dixon tries to take him in they end up in a scuffle leading to Dixon accidentally killing him. Panicking, Dixon tries to cover things up and when Paine’s body is later found attempts to pin the blame of Scalise.
During the subsequent investigation Dixon meets Morgan and her father Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully – “The Caine Mutiny”, “Lure Of The Wilderness”). Lt. Thomas is convinced that Jiggs murdered Paine, especially when it becomes apparent that Paine had hit Morgan.
This complicates matters no end for Dixon. He soon finds himself falling for the newly widowed Morgan and so is desperate to keep her father out of prison. Can he manage to keep Jiggs free, bring down the crooked Scalise and win the girl, or will his own father’s bad ways show through in Dixon’s actions? Will Dixon the cop or Dixon the now-criminal prevail?…
This is a pretty decent film with Andrews playing the tortured Dixon with a very good mix of barely suppressed rage, anguish and guilt. Though not as well-known as 1944’s “Laura” – from the same director and featuring the same two leads – this is still a wonderfully shot and presented movie and should be seen by anyone who enjoys a good film noir…