(1950)3.5Craig ButlerWhere the Sidewalk Ends, while hardly obscure, is also not as well known as it deserves to be. This film noir entry is decidedly flawed, which keeps it from being of the absolute top rank, but it's awfully good -- especially for aficionados of crime thrillers. Sidewalk's main flaw is that the setup of its basic story doesn't quite seem believable; it seems a stretch that Dixon would go to such extraordinary lengths to cover up the murder he accidentally commits. Certainly, there are people who would do this, but it doesn't quite ring true with what we know of the character. Worse, it's incredible that Jiggs would be charged with the murder; there's no blood in his taxi, yet the murdered man would surely have left traces there if the deed had been done in the manner the police suggest. However, if one can accept some of the stretches of the plot, Sidewalk is a taut, totally gripping yarn that also manages to do some good old existential exploration of the good and bad that coexist in all of us. (Not that all of the characters are good and bad in Sidewalk -- but the mixture in our leading man is more than enough to prove screenwriter Ben Hecht's point.) Hecht has also provided some great dialogue and some juicy roles for his actors -- the exception being Gene Tierney's character, which is surprisingly bland. Fortunately, Tierney's stellar looks make the character's dullness secondary. As Dixon, Dana Andrews turns in one of his finest performances. Andrews' range of characters was fairly limited, but he proved here and in several other entries that he was a perfect noir hero -- conflicted, tortured, and torn, but always with a veneer of toughness. The rest of the cast is also strong, with even Gary Merrill turning in a praiseworthy performance. Otto Preminger's direction is excellent, full of his gliding, inquisitive camera that won't leave the characters alone and with an expert sense of pacing that keeps the film buzzing along at a nice, tense pace. Brutish and brooding, Sidewalk is a small gem.
Dana Andrews is brutal metropolitan police detective Dixon, who despises all criminals because his father had been one. When the cops pick up two-bit gambler Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) as a murder suspect, Dixon subjects Paine to the third degree -- and accidentally kills him. In disposing of the body, Dixon inadvertently places the blame for the killing on cab driver Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully). Having fallen in love with Jigg's daughter, Morgan (Gene Tierney), Dixon tries to clear the cabbie without implicating himself, but ultimately he becomes trapped in a web of his own making; luckily Morgan promises to stand by him. Where the Sidewalk Ends was adapted from a novel by William L. Stuart; its director was Otto Preminger, who'd previously put Andrews and Tierney through their paces in Laura (1944).