Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Poster

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9/10
Dana Andrews: Noir's haunted conscience
imogensara_smith13 July 2006
We're a long way from LAURA. Once again Otto Preminger directs, Dana Andrews stars as a police detective named Mark, and Gene Tierney is the beautiful woman who haunts him, but nothing else about WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS resembles everyone's favorite sophisticated murder mystery. Instead of deliciously quotable dialogue we get gritty, harrowing realism. While the earlier film took place in the ritzy upper echelons of New York society, here we're in the low-rent district of dark streets, hoodlums, cheap restaurants and crummy flats. Tierney, gorgeous as ever, now works as a department-store mannequin and lives in Washington Heights (the neighborhood of the "doll" who once got a fox fur out of LAURA's Mark McPherson). This time Andrews is Mark Dixon, an older, sadder, more troubled version of the cool cop in a trench coat.

WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS belongs to a sub-genre of noir, movies about police brutality focusing on cops who can't control their violent impulses. Like Kirk Douglas's character in DETECTIVE STORY, Dixon owes his seething contempt for crooks to his father's criminal past. Where Douglas is self-righteous and blind to his own faults, Andrews is burdened by repressed guilt and self-loathing. He accidentally kills a suspect and covers up his actions with an attempt to throw suspicion on a slimy gangster (Gary Merrill) whom he has been vainly pursuing for years. Instead, a kindly cab driver is suspected because he's the father of the dead man's estranged and mistreated wife Morgan (Gene Tierney). Dixon, falling in love with the wife of the man he killed, tries desperately to save her father without giving himself away.

Among noir protagonists, Dana Andrews had this distinction: he was incapable of appearing unintelligent. Even when playing an average Joe, as he usually did, he always comes across as unusually sensitive and perceptive; more than that, his air of being too thoughtful for his own comfort gives him that haunted--and haunting--quality that was his essence as an actor. He played ordinary guys, cops and soldiers, but always with a tragic undercurrent of seeing and knowing too much. His conscientious heroes are marked by exhaustion, guilt, the inability ever to "lighten up." No other actor could have expressed so well the bottled-up anger, the slow-burning pain, the agonized intelligence of Mark Dixon. He also has a muted tenderness, a muffled warmth and even wry humor that make him heartbreaking. This comes out when he takes Morgan to a restaurant where he's a regular, and for the first time we see this cold, brutal man trading mock insults with the waitress, whose sarcasm can't hide her affection and concern for him. When Dixon asks his partner for money to get a lawyer for Morgan's father, he supplies it even though they recently argued and Dixon threw a punch at him. There are no words about loyalty or knowing he's a good guy deep down, but we see it all in the man's anguished silence and his wife's resignation as she hands over some jewelry to pawn. Dixon's goodness comes across through other people's reactions to him as much as through Andrews's deeply moving performance.

Though Dana Andrews was a minor star, he may be the quintessential forties man. He goes through some movies hardly ever taking off his overcoat; with that boxy, mid-century silhouette, further fortified by the fedora, the glass of bourbon, the cigarette he doesn't take out of his mouth when he talks, he looks imprisoned in the masculine ideal of toughness and impassivity. While many noirs romanticize the two-fisted tough guy, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS offers an unflinching portrait of the reality behind the façade, a gripping and melancholy exploration of the roots and consequences of violence.

Andrews was sadly underrated in his own time (he was the only one of the three protagonists in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES not nominated for an Academy Award, though his low-key performance is far more compelling than Frederic March's hammy, Oscar-winning drunk). Fortunately, Andrews appeared in some films that ensured his immortality, and now at last this little-known film, which contains his best performance, can be seen as part of the marvelous Fox Film Noir set. This series, including a number of never before released titles (such as NIGHTMARE ALLEY and THIEVES' HIGHWAY), suggests that Twentieth-Century-Fox may have had the finest record of all the major studios when it came to film noir.
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9/10
Amazingly well made
bensonmum210 February 2006
At first glance, it would seem natural to compare Where the Sidewalk Ends with Laura. Both have noirish qualities, both were directed by Otto Preminger, and both star Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney. But that's where most of the comparisons end. Laura dealt with posh, sophisticated people with means who just happen to find themselves mixed-up in a murder. Where the Sidewalk Ends is set in a completely different strata. These are people with barely two nickels to rub together who are more accustomed to seeing the underbelly of society than going to fancy dress parties. Where the Sidewalk ends is a gritty film filled with desperate people who solve their problems with their fists or some other weapon. Small-time hoods are a dime-a-dozen and cops routinely beat confessions out of the crooks. Getting caught-up in a murder investigation seems as natural as breathing.

While I haven't seen his entire body of work, based on what I have seen, Dana Andrews gives one of his best performances as the beat-down cop, Det. Sgt. Mark Dixon. He's the kind of cop who is used to roughing up the local hoods if it gets him information or a confession. One night, he goes too far and accidentally kills a man. He does his best to cover it up. But things get complicated when he falls for the dead man's wife, Morgan Taylor (Tierney), whose father becomes suspect number one in the murder case. As Morgan's father means the world to her, Dixon's got to do what he can to clear the old man without implicating himself.

Technically, Where the Sidewalk Ends is outstanding. Besides the terrific performance from Andrews, the movie features the always delightful Tierney. She has a quality that can make even the bleakest of moments seem brighter. The rest of the cast is just as solid with Tom Tully as the wrongly accused father being a real standout. Beyond the acting, the direction, sets, lighting, and cinematography are all top-notch. Overall, it's an amazingly well made film.

If I have one complaint (and admittedly it's a very, very minor quibble) it's that Tierney is almost too perfect for the role and her surroundings. It's a little difficult to believe that a woman like that could find herself mixed-up with some of these unsavory characters. It's not really her fault, it's just the way Tierney comes across. She seems a little too beautiful, polished, and delicate for the part. But, her gentle, kind, trusting nature add a sense of needed realism to her portrayal.
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8/10
One of the best detective films of the Fifties!
Nazi_Fighter_David6 September 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Perhaps the most gripping and intelligent of crooked cop movies is Otto Preminger's 'Where the Sidewalks Ends,' from a really excellent script by Ben Hecht based on the novel 'Night Cry' by Frank Rosenberg...

Dana Andrews is the honest, tough New York policeman, always in trouble with his superiors because he likes his own strong-arm methods as much as he detests crooks... When he hit someone, his knuckles hurt... And the man he wants to hit is a smooth villain (Gary Merrill) who points up the title. 'Why are you always trying to push me in the gutter?' he asks Andrews. 'I have as much right on the sidewalk as you.'

Dana Andrew's obsession and neurosis are implanted in his hidden, painful discovery that he is the son of a thief... His deep hatred of criminals led him to use their own illegal methods to destroy them, and the pursuit of justice became spoiled in private vendetta...

By a twist of irony unique to the film itself, Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney of 'Laura' are united once more, and Andrews now seems to be playing the same detective a few years later, but no longer the romantic, beaten down by his job, by the cheap crooks... This time, he goes too far, and accidentally kills a suspect... The killing is accidental, the victim worthless, yet it is a crime that he knows can break him or send him to jail...

Using his knowledge of police procedure, he covers up his part in the crime, plants false clues, and tries to implicate a gang leader, but cannot avoid investigating the case himself... The double tension of following the larger case through to its conclusion without implicating himself in the murder, is beautifully maintained and the final solution is both logical, satisfying, and in no way a compromise...

The film is one of the best detective films of the 50's, with curious moral values, also one of Preminger's best...

Preminger uses a powerful storytelling technique, projecting pretentious camera angles and peculiar touches of the bizarre in order to externalize his suspense in realism...
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10/10
Expertly done film noir classic!
The_Void7 March 2006
I'm a big fan of fan of film noir, and this film by Otto Preminger easily stands as one of the best that I've seen! Preminger has reunited two of his stars from the hit 'Laura' - Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews, for an entirely different sort of crime film. Laura was based around love, and this film is based around hate; as we watch police detective Mark Dixon, a copper already suffering scrutiny from his superiors for his heavy handed tactics, accidentally kill a suspect and try to pin the murder on a known criminal; a man by the name of Tommy Scalisi. The plot is brilliantly worked, and Preminger excellently balances several plot points; but it all comes back down to the main moral implication surrounding our main character. The fact that the film is set in the criminal underground means that the plot is given an excellent base to work from, and director Otto Preminger expertly captures the sleazier side of life by showing the main characters gambling, beating one another (and their women), shooting and more - and this also helps to offset the film from the earlier 'Laura', which was very much set in upper class society.

The role of Mark Dixon gives Dana Andrews one of the most interesting parts of his career. Here, we have a character that is difficult to like as he's so cold - but the fact that we can understand his motives ensures that he's easy to sympathise with, and that allows the audience the ability to plug into his plight. The character development is well timed, and as we've follows this character and his motivations throughout the film; everything makes sense by the end. His co-star is the beautiful Gene Tierney, who isn't given as much to do in this film as she was in Laura; a film that made Tierney its linchpin. She does well with what she's got, however, and the lead duo's chemistry is excellent and Tierney helps to complete every scene she's in. I can't say that this is a better film than the earlier Laura; that's a hard act to follow, but this film certainly fits into the film noir formula better than Preminger's earlier film. The film also makes a good comparison piece for Laura; as just about everything in this film is opposite to the 1944 movie, yet it's all strangely familiar. Highly recommended to all!
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9/10
Preminger's grittier Big Apple tale fully the equal of his vaunted Laura
bmacv7 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
In Where The Sidewalk Ends, Otto Preminger reunites Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, surely in hopes of recapturing the magic of his Laura. But they're wildly dissimilar films, set in different strata of New York (not to mention at opposite poles of the noir universe). A fine mist of the Gothic hovers over the upscale Manhattan of Laura, with its erotic obsession and faint whiff of necrophilia; Where The Sidewalk Ends is pure urban soot and grit befouling a town of basement apartments, steam rooms and parking garages.

But it's every bit as fine a movie as its revered forerunner, and dyed-in-the-wool noir (Laura, by contrast, one of the clutch of films from 1944 which the French first dubbed `noir,' was still very much a sophisticated murder mystery). Daylight enters only on very temporary sufferance, and director of photography Joseph LaShelle makes the most of the alleys and brownstones, the docks and the El. This is quintessential big-city - specifically Big Apple - noir, like several others from the bumper crop of 1950, like Side Street and Sleeping City and The Tattooed Stranger and Edge of Doom.

As the movie opens, police detective Dana Andrews is on the carpet for his brutal ways, particularly his vendetta towards crime boss Gary Merrill (whom we learn was set up in business by Andrews' ne'er-do-well father). When an out-of-towner is stabbed to death at a floating crap game operated by Merrill, the hair-trigger Andrews roughs up a witness, causing him a fatal crack to the skull (exacerbated by a steel plate installed in the veteran's head). Realizing that his job's already on the line, Andrews dumps the body in the river after making it look like the suspect had taken a powder.

Of course, that's far from an end to it. The corpse is discovered, his estranged wife turns out to be Tierney, and all the evidence starts to turn toward her father (Tom Tully), a hack driver who happened not only to have been cruising the same mean streets the night of the murder but to have ample reason to want his abusive son-in-law dead. But the embittered loner Andrews finds in Tierney a summons to his better nature; he tries to exonerate her father while still keeping his own involvement in the whole sordid business a secret....

Not so epigrammatic as Laura, the script for Where The Sidewalk Ends (by Ben Hecht) shows a pungency of its own (in a second dressing-down, his superior tells Andrews, `Look at you - all bunged up like a barrelhouse fag').

But while Laura spread its attention over half a dozen characters, here Andrews is all but the sole focus (even Tierney's role is far less central than her half-spectral Laura). And Andrews may never have excelled his performance here. It's tight-lipped and taciturn, but never more eloquent than when his face is silently registering the anguish to which his own obstinacy has brought him. He's a pent-up sufferer who can find release only through the safety-valve of violence (he even lashes out against his loyal partner, Bert Freed). To be sure, he finds too swift a road to redemption though the agency of his beautiful co-star. But that was the style of the times, and a sweetened-up ending does little to undermine this New York story of violence, corruption and urban entanglements.
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8/10
First rate film noir; make that a superb movie.
dcavallo6 June 2001
Elegance and class are not always the first words that come to mind when folks (at least folks who might do such a thing) sit around and talk about film noir.

Yet some of the best films of the genre, "Out of the Past," "The Killers," "In A Lonely Place," "Night and the City," manage a level of sleek sophistication that elevates them beyond a moody catch phrase and its connotations of foreboding shadows, fedoras, and femme-fatales.

"Where the Sidewalk Ends," a fairly difficult to find film -- the only copy in perhaps the best stocked video store in Manhattan was a rough bootleg from the AMC cable channel -- belongs in a category with these classics.

From the moment the black cloud of opening credits pass, a curtain is drawing around rogue loner detective Marc Dixon's crumbling world, and as the moments pass, it inches ever closer, threatening suffocation.

Sure, he's that familiar "cop with a dark past", but Dana Andrews gives Dixon a bleak stare and troubled intensity that makes you as uncomfortable as he seems. And yeah, he's been smacking around suspects for too long, and the newly promoted chief (Karl Malden, in a typically robust and commanding outing) is warning him "for the last time."

Yet Dixon hates these thugs too much to stop now. And boy didn't they had have it coming?

"Hoods, dusters, mugs, gutter nickel-rats" he spits when that tough nut of a boss demotes him and rolls out all of the complaints the bureau has been receiving about Dixon's right hook. The advice is for him to cool off for his own good. But instead he takes matters into his own hands.

And what a world of trouble he finds when he relies on his instincts, and falls back on a nature that may or may not have been passed down from a generation before.

Right away he's in deep with the cops, the syndicate, his own partner. Dixon's questionable involvement in a murder "investigation" threatens his job, makes him wonder whether he is simply as base as those he has sworn to bring in. Like Bogart in "Lonely Place," can he "escape what he is?"

When he has nowhere else to turn, he discovers that he has virtually doomed his unexpected relationship with a seraphic beauty (the marvelous Gene Tierney) who seems as if she can turn his barren bachelor's existence into something worth coming home to.

The pacing of this superb film is taut and gripping. The group of writers that contributed to the production polished the script to a high gloss -- the dialogue is snappy without disintegrating into dated parody fodder, passionate without becoming melodramatic or sappy.

And all of this top-notch direction and acting isn't too slick or buffed to loosen the film's emotional hold. Gene Tierney's angelic, soft-focus beauty is used to great effect. She shows herself to be an actress of considerable range, and her gentle, kind nature is as boundless here as is her psychosis in "Leave Her to Heaven." The scenes between Tierney and Andrews's Dixon grow more intense and touching the closer he seems to self-destruction.

Near the end of his rope, cut, bruised, and exhausted Dixon summarizes his lot: "Innocent people can get into terrible jams, too,.." he says. "One false move and you're in over your head."

Perhaps what makes this film so totally compelling is the sense that things could go wildly wrong for almost anyone -- especially for someone who is trying so hard to do right -- with one slight shift in the wind, one wrong decision or punch, or, most frighteningly, due to factors you have no control over. Noir has always reflected the darkest fears, brought them to the surface. "Where the Sidewalk Ends" does so in a realistic fashion.

(One nit-pick of an aside: This otherwise sterling film has a glaringly poor dub of a blonde model that wouldn't seem out of place on Mystery Science Theater. How very odd.)

But Noir fans -- heck, ANY movie fans -- who haven't seen this one are in for a terrific treat.
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Even better than "Laura"
Zen Bones20 January 2001
Despite the lack of a haunting theme song and the austere and humourous presence of Clifton Webb, this film is a much more exciting experience than "Laura", the other collaboration between Preminger, Andrews and Tierney. This is one of the grimmest film noir films I've ever seen, and not just in its lurid shadows and rain-drenched streets. The film is dark to its very soul. Dana Andrews plays what is now a standard stereotype: the cop who is bitter and deadly with his temper. But Andrews plays it with more honesty and humanity than most any other angry movie cop you're likely to see. Despite the fact that his character is good at heart, he is also a criminal and a killer, and the film beautifully strings him along, forcing him to serve his spiritual penance. What of course is most fun is the way that his terror over being discovered slowly comes to a boil. I've seen tons of film noir movies but I can't recall ever seeing the protagonist ever becoming the anti-hero in such a startling way. Many of the best film noir pics have that dizzying spiral theme of a man trapped by his own weakness. "Night in the City", "Detour", "Scarlet Street", "In a Lonely Place", "Act of Violence" and "Johnny Eager", are among the best of them. "Were the Sidewalk Ends" holds its own among them. Not a bad recommendation!
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"I Couldn't Shake Loose From What I Was"
stryker-531 December 1999
Produced and directed by Otto Preminger, and starring Dana Andrews, the king of the B-movies, this is a terrific 20th-Century Fox film noir, all heavy woollen topcoats, stylish wide-brimmed hats and skewed camera angles. It's a film with a superb 'dark' look and a Ben Hecht script which delivers the authentic cadences of noirspeak.

Mark Dixon is a tough cop. His father was a small-time hood, and Dixon feels he has something to prove. He uses street methods, roughing-up bad guys and bullying stoolpigeons. He is not liked by his superiors, and has remained a detective sergeant, whereas his contemporary Lewis (Karl Malden) has played it by the book and has risen to the rank of lieutenant. Lewis is now Dixon's boss, and there is considerable tension between the two men.

Enter Ken Paine (Craig Stevens), a two-bit crook and bagman for Scalise (Guy Merrill). Tall, dark and handsome, and a much-decorated war hero, Paine is a drinker and a punk who lurks around cheap crap games. He is dating a dame by the name of Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney), a looker with a whiff of glamour about her. Morgan is a fashion model in a Manhattan department store by day, and an 'escort' in Scalise's gambling club by night. Jiggs Taylor, her father (Tom Tulley), is a New York cabbie with a fondness for telling tall stories.

Dixon is on his last chance. The captain has made it clear - no more rough stuff. Then something dreadful happens, and Dixon panics and tries to cover it up. He sets in motion a train of events which he can't control, especially after he becomes emotionally involved with the beautiful Morgan. Dixon's tormented soul is the film's battleground, the instinct for self-preservation warring with a guilty conscience and a need to earn the girl's respect.

Though they do not spoil the movie, there are some things in the story which don't quite add up. A detective openly discusses a current investigation with a yellow cab driver, something which even the unorthodox Dixon would never do. Dishes are served to Dixon and Morgan in the restaurant, even though they didn't order anything specific. How is Morgan able to get to Paine's apartment in the couple of minutes which elapse after she hears the news? Why do the police interrogate Jiggs at the scene, in the presence of his daughter? Surely the detectives know better than to subject Jiggs to a confrontation ID without allowing him access to legal advice?

A 'noir' is nothing if not atmospheric, and this one is dripping with atmosphere. Brooklyn Bridge looms high over the mean streets, a skeletal silhouette which haunts the action like some urban angel of doom. New York City is the matrix in and through which these characters function, the context of their entire existence, and its presence is constantly felt. Whether by means of an el-train overhead, or a forest of skyscrapers swimming into focus through the locker-room window, the city surrounds and bears in upon these people, the malevolent nest through which they are obliged to scurry.

Dana Andrews is excellent as Dixon, the tough guy who retains our sympathy because he is capable of remorse. Watch out for Scalise's masseur, a very young Neville Brand.

It doesn't always help to be innocent, says Dixon, the hard man conscious of the harsh ways of the city, but the wretchedness of a guilty conscience is a terrible burden to bear. The camera conveys this beautifully, with a brooding Dixon large in the foreground as the investigation proceeds, and earlier, his horrified face twisted by a fish-eye lens as he realises the enormity of what he has done.

Verdict - A murky, grim film noir ... marvellous!
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9/10
One of the very greatest films noirs.(possible spoiler)
alice liddell24 February 2000
Warning: Spoilers
Otto Preminger's Dana Andrews cycle of films noirs are among the (largely) unsung jewels of the genre. Because they lack paranoia, misogyny or hysteria, they may have seemed out of place at the time, but the clear-eyed imagery, the complex play with identity, masculinity and representation, the subversion of traditional psychological tenets, the austere, geometrical style all seem startlingly modern today, and very similar to Melville. The lucid ironies of this film are so loaded, brutal and ironic that the 'happy' ending is one of the cruellest in Hollywood history. Brilliant on the level of entertaining thriller as well, tense, and packed with double-edged dialogue.
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Terriffic film noir
TC-43 December 2000
If all "film noirs" were this good, we would have a lot more of them. If someone were to ask me what is one I would tell them to go see this movie as a perfect example. This a 50 year old movie that doesn't feel old. In other words, nothing sounds corny and stupid as others of the time. Dana Andrews had a real hard edge on his shoulder much different than in The Best Years Of Our Lives. Without giving anything away, I recommend seeing this movie "cold" like I did and be thoroughly entertained.
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Gritty Noir excellence from Preminger
stephen-35726 January 2005
An excellent opening title sequence starts this gritty Noir off in perfect step with what will follow. The son of a thief who was killed while attempting to shoot himself out of jail, Mark Dixon became a cop in an attempt to atone for the sins of the father, but cannot quite escape the fathers blood surging through his veins every time he strikes out at a hood, and it's his excessive use of force that gets him demoted with the threat of losing his job as detective, the only thing he ever wanted out of life. When he accidentally kills a witness to a murder, panic takes hold of him and he proceeds to cover up the evidence, but fate has a way of meting out cruel justice. Mark will fall in love for his victim's ex, and then her innocent uncle through another freak accident ends up taking the rap for the murder when the body turns up. And now the real moment of truth - atone for his own sins and free an innocent man, but probably lose the girl, or say nothing, keep the girl, but end up being just like his father? A brilliantly executed noir by Preminger and Dana Andrews nails one of the best performances of his career as the tormented detective.
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10/10
Where One Ends, Another Begins
secondtake14 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)

Where One Ends, Another Begins

This is a prototypical film noir, and as such, pretty flawless, from both style and content points of view. The photography and night settings are first rate (cinematographer Joseph LaShelle lets the drama ooze in scene after scene), and the close-ups on faces pure expressionism. I can watch this kind of film for the visuals alone, even when the actors struggle and the plot stinks.

But the acting is first rate here, and the plot features what I consider the core of most noir films, the alienated male lead (representing the many men returning home to a changed United States after the war and feeling lost themselves). In fact, not only is Dana Andrews really convincing as the troubled, loner detective, he has a small but important counterpart in the film, the lead female's (first) husband, a decorated ex-GI fallen onto hard times and booze. The fact the one man kills the other might be of monumental significance, overall-- the regular guy struggling through his inner problems to success while the medal-wearing soldier slips into an accidental death with a silver plate in his head. The woman transitions from one to the other--we assume they marry and have children as suggested earlier in the movie. Even if this is pushing an interpretation onto it after the fact, we can still see the path of one man with some psychological baggage careening through a crisis to the highest kind of moral order--turning himself in for a small crime just at the point he has actually gotten away with it.

This movie belongs to Andrews. He plays a far more restrained and moving type than Kirk Douglas plays in a similar role in William Wyler's Detective Story made just one year later, and Andrews certainly is less theatrical. You could easily see both movies side by side for a textbook compare and contrast session. The fact that Andrews as Detective Dixon is morally struggling through it all, and Douglas as Detective McLeod is not, might explain why one man gets his girl and the other doesn't. Gene Tierney pulls off a hugely sympathetic, demurring, and ultimately conventional and "pretty" type of woman--not just a cardboard desirable, but someone you want Dixon to actually marry.

The criminal plot is really secondary to the main drama, but is effective enough in its play with types and clichés. The bit parts are kept snappy, the small details (like the portable craps table) nice touches, far from the character actors or the glamour of gambling in Casablanca. But then, Curtiz's great movie is iconic even in the details--it makes no effort to be subtle and real and penetrating, but instead is sweeping and memorable and inspiring. They come at opposite ends of the war, and represent opposite possibilities for their leading men. Bogart is beginning his active duty, Dixon, and the man Dixon has killed, are all through. Through, thoroughly, but not washed up.

It's no accident that many, possibly most, film noirs have what you would call "happy" endings. The man overcomes his adversaries and transforms his inner self, and the moviegoer, then and now, understands just how beautiful that must feel.
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8/10
A Different Film Noir with Moralist Conclusion
Claudio Carvalho20 October 2014
In New York, Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) is an efficient, but violent police detective that is haunted by his past. His father was a hoodlum and Detective Dixon hates criminals. After twelve complaints on his abusive behavior, his chief, Inspector Nicholas Foley, threatens him to take his badge if he loses his temper again. Meanwhile, the gangster Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill) has an illegal casino and loses US$ 19,000.00 in the crap game to the wealthy Mr. Ted Morrison, who was invited to the game by Kenneth "Ken" Paine (Craig Stevens) and his ex- wife Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney). When Morgan tells that she needs to go home because she needs to work on the next morning, Paine asks her to stay and she realizes that he is using her as a decoy to take Morrison's money. Morgan tells that she will go and Paine hits her face. Morrison defends her and Paine knocks him out with a punch.

Later the police department is called by Scalise and his men and Morrison is found stabbed to death. They accuse Paine and Detective Dixon heads to his apartment to investigate. Paine is drunk and punches Dixon on the face. The detective reacts and punches Paine that falls on the floor. Soon Dixon discovers that Paine is dead and he was a war hero with many friends in the press. He plots a scheme to get rid off Paine's body and during the investigation he falls in love with Morgan. When her father becomes the prime suspect of Paine's murder, Detective Dixon lives a dilemma while hunting down Scalise.

One of the main characteristics of a film noir is the amoral story and characters. "Where the Sidewalk Ends" has a moralist conclusion totally unusual in the genre. Further, there is no femme fatale, usually an ambiguous seductive woman that manipulates her lover to do something dangerous and amoral. Therefore "Where the Sidewalk Ends" is a film noir different and also a police story. The characters are well developed and Dana Andrews is perfect in the role of a stubborn and violent detective that falls in love with the gorgeous Morgan performed by Gene Tierney. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Passos na Noite" ("Steps in the Night")
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Classic film noir
dzuber3211 May 2012
I enjoyed this movie classic film noir movie. I was unaware what the movie was about when i started to watch. I was into the movie once i found out it was police scandal. It caught me off guard when Det. Dixon went to question Kenneth Paine about the murder of Mr. Morrison and when he hit Paine, Paine drops dead. From then on I was hooked. The plot was phenomenal, and the lighting was absolutely extraordinary. As it was a very dark thriller, the lighting played right into the story with dim streets and apartments. The lighting just added to the great thriller.I also enjoyed the punches thrown though some were really fake and the shouting and in your face Interaction of some characters.
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8/10
Did this great noir with a meaningless title inspire Dirty Harry?
calvinnme17 June 2017
Dana Andrews plays New York City police detective Mark Dixon. Dixon is in trouble with his superior because he beats up the hoods he encounters. The problem is Dixon's father was a hood himself and got the current big cheese in the underworld, Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill), his start in crime. Mr. Merrill looks about as Italian as a Cro-Magnon man, in fact he actually resembles Cro-Magnon man, but that's another story. So Dixon really sees his much hated but long departed dad in all of these rats he collars, thus the attitude. Dixon's superior says one more complaint about his rough stuff and he's off the force.

Then a murder at a private game set up by Scalise to take an out of town hayseed. You see, the hayseed started winning - 19K to be exact - and then wanted to leave. Scalise and his mob disagreed.

When Dixon and his partner get the call, the rich Texan is lying dead with a knife in his heart, Scalise says he was losing not winning when he died, and the guy (Craig Stevens as Ken Payne) who got into a fight with him over a girl (Gene Tierney as Morgan Taylor) is long gone, as well as the girl. Dixon and his partner split up, with Dixon going to Ken's place to see what he has to say.

Now apparently all Ken did - and all the audience saw - was Ken knock the Texan cold. Ken has no idea that he has been set up to take the fall for a murder. So when Dixon shows up at Ken's place a fight breaks out when Dixon tries to arrest him. Ken throws a punch at Dixon, Dixon hit back, and Ken lands on the floor dead. Then a phone call from Dixon's partner. When asked if he found Ken, Dixon says no. The partner warns him not to get rough with the guy because, besides being a first class scum bag, he was a war hero and has a steel plate in his head due to war wounds. Thus the one punch death.

Nobody is going to believe the truth given his reputation, so Dixon has to come up with a clever plan to get rid of the body and make the timeline look like he could never have been the killer. He succeeds too well. Then he begins to fall for Ken's widow, Morgan. And Dixon did a very good job of throwing suspicion off, because it lands on Morgan's dad who is booked for Ken's murder once the body is found. So Dixon has the possibility of making the woman he loves both a widow and an orphan. How can he make this right and get to keep Morgan, or can he? Watch and find out.

Andrews' acting is subtle, mainly all facial expressions, since he can't talk out the dilemma he is in with anybody. The entire cast is superb. You've even got Karl Malden in a minor role as the new supervisor of detectives, and Tom Tully as Jiggs Taylor, Morgan's cab driving dad whose loud voice and big stories help get him into the legal jam he finds himself. That mousy little petty criminal who manages to have a small part all through the film that you've seen a hundred times in similar roles? Wrong. That was Don Appell in his only screen appearance. Finally there is Ruth Donnelly adding some great atmosphere as the hash slinging mom figure to Dixon. The only characterization that made me go "huh?" was Gene Tierney playing the daughter of a cab driver like she is a Park Avenue debutante.

I'd give it a nine if not for the ending. Darn that production code. Watch and find out what I mean.
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8/10
Lets have no more talk of Laura, eh?
Spikeopath5 May 2010
American city film noir directed by Otto Preminger with the screenplay written by Ben Hecht. The adaptation is from the novel Night Cry written by William L. Stuart and Joseph LaShelle provides the cinematography for the New York City shoot. It stars Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, Gary Merrill, Bert Freed, Tom Tully & Karl Malden, with support coming from Ruth Donnelly, Craig Stevens & Neville Brand.

Tough New York cop Mark Dixon (Andrews) is constantly in trouble with his superiors for his heavy-handed treatment of suspects. When disaster strikes during an altercation with Ken Paine (Stevens), Dixon chooses an unethical route and attempts to frame a gangster nemesis called Tommy Scalise (Merill). However, things don't go according to plan and not only does Dixon find himself falling in love with Paine's wife, Morgan Taylor-Paine (Tierney), but also that he is now mired in a quagmire investigation which sees Morgan's father, Jiggs (Tully), accused of the crime he himself is responsible for.

Where The Sidewalk Ends was the final film noir piece that Preminger made for 20th Century Fox in the 1940s. Then a director for hire, the film sees Preminger re-teamed with Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, Joseph LaShelle, Ben Hecht and art director Lyle Wheeler, all of whom produced the excellent Laura in 1944. Whilst linking the two films together is understandable given the makers and the genre involved, the two are very different movies. Which to my mind makes a mockery of some critics looking unfavourably on "Sidewalk" because of the regard Laura is held. "Sidewalk" is more grittier, more violent and certainly darker (this is one troubled chip on the shoulder copper), in short this is big city noir and some way away from the socialite leanings of the more glossy Laura.

There's a lot of quality involved here. Preminger astutely paces the story and manages to make Dixon sympathetic, thus fully doing justice to Hecht's tough and tight script that unravels in a world of cop shops, cafés, street side apartments and underworld hang-outs. All of which is given the perfect low-key (almost seedy) photographic treatment by the always visually appealing LaShelle. The cast, too, are doing great work. Tierney is a beguiling beauty throughout, something that works off of Andrews' more chiselled featured and emotionally conflicted portrayal rather well. It's arguably one of Andrews' best & most convincing performances, Dixon carries around with him much pain and bitterness due to his father having been a criminal. In a perverse bit of writing, Dixon essentially finds himself investigating himself, throw in a burgeoning romance with sharp kickers attached, and, shades of patricide, then it's a character in need of depth. Andrews steps up to the plate and layers it to perfection to give noir one of its finest policeman protagonists. The rest are effective, particularly Malden, Merrill and Brand, the latter of which is the tough guy actor who isn't William Bendix!

If we have to pick flies? Then the ending carriers some Hollywoodisation baggage, and there's some implausibilities within the story. But really neither of those things stop the film from being the riveting genre offering that it is. So get out on that sidewalk with Dixon and see just what awaits us and him after Preminger has taken us for a murky stroll. 8/10
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6/10
Fairly taut criminal exploits...
moonspinner5529 July 2009
Ben Hecht adapted William L. Stuart's book about a troubled New York police detective--recently called on the carpet by his superior for roughing up too many suspects--interrogating a shady character in the man's apartment, getting into a physical altercation and accidentally killing him. In the lead, drip-dry Dana Andrews doesn't look like the hair-trigger-temper sort, but he acquits himself well with this fascinating role, determined to cover up his mistake though inadvertently leaving the door open for an innocent taxi driver to be accused of murder! Karl Malden is also extremely good as the new police lieutenant on the beat, and his rush to judgment against the working stiff is unsettling (it gives one the feeling that many cases are still 'solved' in this manner); Gene Tierney, Andrews' "Laura" co-star, is perfect as the daughter of the suspect--whom Andrews is quickly falling for--yet the finale is joyless and square. I guess the morals of the time dictated the picture HAD to end on this note, but seen today it plays like Hollywood preening. **1/2 from ****
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8/10
Simple and effective Noir
MartinHafer27 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great example of a rather simple Film Noir story that is handled exceptionally well--thanks to excellent direction by Otto Preminger as well as some lovely acting performances. Dana Andrews stars as a hot-headed detective who all too often uses his fists instead of his brains. Soon after the film begins, Andrews is being reprimanded for this and is warned that if this continues he'll be off the force. A bit later, while investigating a crime he's attacked by a suspect and Andrews is forced to fight to protect himself. This time he does NOT use excessive force but the assailant is killed. Andrews panics and assumes they won't believe him so he tries to cover up the death--though instead an innocent man is ultimately blamed for the crime.

There's a lot more to the film than this--including a plot involving a slimy villain (Gary Merrill) and a love interest for Andrews (Gene Tierney). All in all, this is one of the better examples of the genre--with great gritty dialog, superb lighting and a simple yet very effective story. This is the way Noir was meant to be.
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6/10
A solid noir, thanks to Otto Preminger's direction and Joseph LaShelle's cinematography
Terrell-43 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
There's a hole as big as Carlsbad Caverns right in the middle of the plot. What is so surprising is that, thanks to Otto Preminger's skill and that of his cinematographer, Joseph LaShelle, how the story is told more than makes up for it. Here's the set-up. A police detective with a well-earned reputation for beating up low-lifes tracks down a suspect in a murder. The guy is drunk and the cop is impatient. One thing leads to another and the guy stands up and smacks the cop on the chin. While the cop is picking himself up, the guy reaches for a whiskey bottle and starts to bring it down on the cop's head. The cop blocks that swing, then punches the guy hard, and I mean hard, right in the chest, then connects just as hard with the guy's chin. The guy goes down and doesn't get up. He's dead. So now we're off on a plot-line where the cop's hatred of crooks, which is based on some family issues, suddenly has him hiding the corpse. Wouldn't you know it, the corpse is found...and an aggressive young precinct head decides that the man responsible is the father of a girl the detective starts to fall for. And while this is going on, the detective hasn't stopped his obsessive search for the crook he thinks is really behind the original murder, a sneering mobster with a fondness for nasal inhalers.

Wait, now. Any cop who hit and accidentally killed a guy in self defense would instantly have a wall of blue thrown protectively around him, no matter how hard a case he might be. Every resource would be used to see that the cop was exonerated. I know, I know, this is a movie, but Detective Mark Dixon's (Dana Andrews) reaction is so excessive that it becomes nothing more than a glaring plot device. And, in my view, that undermines the tension of the movie.

Another thing that doesn't help is that both Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney (as Margaret Taylor, who becomes Dixon's love interest) are, in my opinion, not compelling actors. Andrews had a great voice but, to my way of thinking, a somewhat wooden face and a stolid acting style. Sometimes he was effective, sometimes not. Tierney is, as usual, gorgeous to look at, but she is no actress. She seems to spend all her time in this movie either being noble toward the man Dixon accidentally killed, or noble and loving toward her father, or noble and loving toward Dixon. I'm fairly well convinced that her performance in Leave Her to Heaven, a first-rate acting job, was some mysterious and happy accident.

Some critics have made much of the apparent moral ambiguity in Mark Dixon's character. I don't quite see it that way. Yes, he hates crooks for reasons a psychoanalyst could help him deal with. When given a semi-legal chance to rough them up, he does. But there is no moral ambiguity in his character. He may be an angry man, but he has friends. He doesn't need to agonize about spending his savings to help another person; he just does it. Dixon is a man with problems, but moral ambiguity isn't one of them.

Because of all this, what's important in this movie is how Preminger and LaShelle go about telling the story, not the story itself. They do terrific jobs. The feel of the movie captures Dixon's anger, his short fuse, his loneliness. The movie looks gritty, dark and authentic. Small details add a lot to the sense of reality. When we walk into Dixon's small apartment we can see just a quick glimpse of an icebox behind a screen. Even in 1950 there were a lot of iceboxes still around. The bar where Dixon's partner orders a scotch and water looks like any number of old, dark downtown bars. Margaret Taylor's apartment is tiny. There's no bedroom, just a single bed next to the wall as you walk in. And the movie has faces, actors you sort of recognize who look right for their parts...Tom Tully as Margaret's father, Bert Freed as his partner, Ruth Donnelly as Gladys, the owner of a small Italian restaurant, Karl Malden as the new precinct captain, Neville Brand as one of the goons; even Gary Merrill who overacts a little looks the part as Tommy Scalise, the mobster. Brand, in particular, looks like a man you never want to irritate.
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7/10
The flip-side of LAURA?
JasparLamarCrabb7 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Otto Preminger's noir classic works almost as a flip-side of LAURA...while that film was glitzy and features the high fa-luting Clifton Webb, this film is a whole lot seamier. Dana Andrews is a less than good cop who accidentally kills a man only to have it potentially pinned on the father of the girl he loves. Preminger keeps things moving at a brisk clip so that lapses in logic are easily overlooked. Andrews is quite fine (a lot less wooden than he's been in the past) and the stunningly beautiful Gene Tierney is stunningly beautiful! Creepy Craig Stevens plays the unlucky victim. WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS is a must see and a terrific companion-piece to Preminger's equally lurid WHIRLPOOL (also starring Tierney).
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10/10
Grim Film Noir Hits Its Mark
Noirdame7926 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Otto Preminger, completing a noir cycle at Twentieth Century Fox, reunited his "Laura" leads for this stark, gritty detective drama. Dana Andrews again portrays a cop, but this time he's hardened, cynical and has been accused of police brutality by his superior - "You don't hate hoods, you liked to beat them up!". Mark Dixon (Andrews) despises criminals, as his own father was a crook. He doesn't want to be "Sandy Dixon's kid" so he became a policeman, but his methods are harsh and hated.

One night, investigating a murder, he unknowingly punches a suspect, Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) so hard that it kills him. A shaken Dixon does his best to cover it up, intending to frame a hated thug, Scalise (Gary Merrill) for the crime. However, the blame falls on Paine's father-in-law, Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully), whose daughter, department store model Morgan Taylor (Tierney) is estranged from her husband but keeps getting drawn into his gambling schemes. Paine had slapped his wife, enraging her father, who did show up at his son-in-law's apartment, but not until Dixon had departed with the body. With no better suspects, Jiggs is arrested and charged.

Riddled with guilt, Mark falls for Morgan and offers money for an attorney. He decides to take on Scalise anyway but leaves a letter to be given to the department in the event of his death, confessing everything. In the end, he cannot live with the knowledge with what he has done, and he permits the letter to be read by his superior and by Morgan. Despite all the tragic circumstances, Morgan professes her love for Mark and will wait for him.

It was great to find this film on DVD, after so many years of televised obscurity. Eddie Mueller, a film noir historian, provides the commentary and does a good job, but I find his assertion that audiences wouldn't have caught the significance of the casting of the two leads, since "Laura" had been made six years earlier. In that respect, he is mistaken because they had appeared in "The Iron Curtain" two years prior to WTSE and the film was a box-office success.

Andrews and Tierney were fabulous together, and Ruth Donnelly is tremendous comic relief as restaurant owner Martha, fanning the flames between the detective and the dame.

The night cityscapes give the film an air of menace. Gary Merrill is great as the low-life Scalise, who had a criminal past with Dixon's dad ("Your father liked me," he taunts Mark). Karl Malden and a young Neville Brand are terrific also. And Tom Tully is just touching and funny as Morgan's unjustly accused pop.

A watchable film noir with a fantastic cast.
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8/10
Another great 20th Century Fox noir
blanche-214 October 2007
Dana Andrews stands "Where the Sidewalk Ends" in this 1950 film that also stars Gene Tierney, Gary Merrill, Karl Malden and Neville Brand. Andrews plays New York City Detective Sgt. Mark Dixon, a cop with a bad temper who has gotten into trouble in the past for beating suspects. When a man is murdered at a gambling club owned by a mobster, Scalise (Merrill), Dixon and his partner go to investigate. Scalise blames the murder on Ken Paine (Stevens), who has now left the club after fighting not only with his wife, Morgan (Tierney) but the victim. Dixon thinks the victim won a lot of money and was killed as a result by the mobster's men. He goes to see Paine and, not realizing he has a plate in his head from the war, knocks him to the floor and inadvertently kills him. Now he must cover up the murder. As a further complication, he falls for Morgan; her father (Ken Tully), who went to Paine's apartment after he saw that Paine had hit his daughter, is arrested for the crime.

This is a really terrific, gritty noir with some good performances. The ruggedly handsome and weathered Andrews is convincing as a tough yet nervous detective who has to stay one step ahead of his colleagues. The movie reunites him with his fabulous "Laura" costar, Gene Tierney, and she looks lovely as a model with bad taste in men who apparently is used to being roughed up. Little does she know, she's got another one on her hands. Ken Tully does a terrific job as her father, who protests his innocence despite some damning evidence. Karl Malden is very tough as Dixon's boss.

My only problem with this well-directed, fast-moving and absorbing film is the ending. Pure Hollywood and, putting myself in Tierney's place, I doubt I would react the same way. A minor criticism for a film written by Ben Hecht and directed by Otto Preminger. I didn't find it as awe-inspiring as "Laura," but few things in this world are. If you like film noir, this is a must-see.
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The Dixon redemption.
dbdumonteil23 July 2002
Absorbing screenplay,strong directing,superb performances,everything is perfect in this Otto Preminger movie.

Dana Andrews gives one of his greatest performances.Unlike "Laura",the interest focuses on him here.At first sight ,he seems a tough cop,brutal,ruthless and disagreeable.Little by little,we learn to understand him:his past is revealed only in the last part.His stature is constantly growing .In the extraordinary letter scene (with a moving voice over),we finally side with him .Unlike the Lang hero (see Andrews's part in "beyond a reasonable doubt" 1956) ,the Preminger character can redeem himself even if the price to pay is high :here Dixon is ready to sacrifice his life partly because of his love for Tierney,but also because his heredity made him a pariah,an outcast,"half-cop,half-criminal" as a hoodlum justly says.

Suspense is constant and exciting.When the old lady realizes that it cannot be Paine because he didn't wave his hand,it packs a real wallop! The relationship Andrews/Tierney is more endearing than in "Laura" because they both experiment tragedy here (Tierney's father jailed for something he's never done).Preminger succeeds in turning an uncertain conclusion into a true happy end ,which is quite a feat.
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7/10
It's no "Laura" but it's good, gritty film noir...
Neil Doyle23 September 2006
WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS deserves to be a better known film directed by Otto Preminger, the man who gave the world LAURA. And this time, he's got the same co-stars: DANA ANDREWS and GENE TIERNEY. It must be said that Tierney here is under-used in what amounts to more of a supporting role while the spotlight goes to Andrews.

He plays a tough, hardened cop used to dealing with a bunch of thugs in too vigorous a way until one night he accidentally kills a man in the process of arresting him. When suspicion falls on a cab driver (TOM TULLY), he goes along with the investigation into the murder but starts to feel guilt because he's in love with the cabbie's daughter (GENE TIERNEY). Tierney, by the way, looks a little too elegant for the girl she's playing here and doesn't seem to fit into the squalid background elements of the story.

The story takes a grim turn as the investigation goes deeper and it's discovered that the murdered man had a silver plate in his head from his service as a war hero. By the end, it turns into a morality tale with Andrews developing a conscience over his crime.

It's fascinating as film noir with capable performances from a strong supporting cast. A good entry in the field of noir, forcefully directed by Preminger and nicely played by Andrews and Tierney, despite the slight miscasting of her character.
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