Thursday, October 21, 2021

Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney find out “Where the Sidewalk Ends”

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) is an American film noir directed and produced by Otto Preminger and starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney. The screenplay was written by Ben Hecht and the cinematography was by Joseph LaShelle.

Mark Dixon (Andrews) is a tough New York City cop who was demoted due to excessive force in the line of duty. During a routine investigation with a witness to a crime (a possible murder), things go terribly wrong. When Dixon questions Ken Paine (Craig Stevens), a drunk Paine becomes angry and starts a fight. Defending himself, Dixon punches Paine who falls and hits his head, killing him instantly. In a panic, because of his recent demotion and fearing his career would be over if he told his superiors, Dixon disposes of Paine’s body. 

Paine’s estranged wife, model Morgan Taylor (Tierney), is brought in for questioning because she too was a possible witness to the murder. Morgan’s husband used her as “bait” to lure a Texas tycoon to a floating crap game at mobster Tommy Scalise’s (Gary Merrill) apartment. The tycoon ends up dead and it looks like Scalise was trying to pin it on Paine. When circumstantial evidence gets Morgan’s father (Tom Tully) arrested for the murder of his son-in-law, Dixon finds himself with a moral dilemma, complicated by his attraction to Morgan.

Will Dixon come clean and face the consequences or will he let Morgan’s father take the fall?

Otto Preminger (1905 -1986) was an American film director who made more than 35 feature films during a five-decade career. Born in Austro-Hungarian into a Jewish family. Preminger was drawn to acting from an early age and became the apprentice of famed stage director Max Reinhardt. In 1935, he was recruited by Twentieth Century-Fox to apprentice as a director at the studio. After a rocky start, Preminger established himself as an A-list director after Rouben Mamoulian was fired from Laura (1944). The film noir classic made major stars of Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews and is considered one of the best film noirs of all time. While under contract to Fox, Preminger directed Fallen Angel (1945), Centennial Summer (1946), Forever Amber (1947), and Daisy Kenyon (1947). After he left Fox, Preminger became a maverick, constantly clashing with members of the Production Code. He released two films without the approval of the Production Code: The Moon is Blue (1953) and The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Both films were financial successes and helped bring an end to the Code entirely. Later successes for Preminger include Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and Exodus (1960).

Dana Andrews (1909 – 1992) was an American stage, film, and television actor. During the 1940s, Andrews was a major star and leading man starring in Laura (1944), State Fair (1945), A Walk in the Sun (1945), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Canyon Passage (1946), Boomerang! (1947), and Daisy Kenyon (1947), the latter co-starring Joan Crawford and Henry Fonda. During the 1950s, film roles were harder to come by, but he had success in Elephant Walk (1954) co-starring Elizabeth Taylor and Peter Finch, While the City Sleeps (1956), and Curse of the Demon (1957). In 1958 he replaced Henry Fonda on Broadway in Two for the Seesaw. Andrews worked a lot on television guest-starring on shows like The Twilight Zone, Checkmate, The Barbara Stanwyck Show, Ben Casey, The Love Boat, Ironside, and Falcon Crest. He also starred in the daytime soap opera Bright Promise (1969 - 1971).

Gene Tierney (1920 – 1991) was an American actress. Tierney got her start on the stage where she played the ingenue lead in The Male Animal. She was spotted by 20th Century-Fox Studio head Darryl F. Zanuck and he offered her a movie contract. Zanuck said that Tierney was the most beautiful woman in the movies. Tierney proved that she could carry a film not completely based on her beauty in films like Laura (1944) and Leave Her To Heaven (1945) for which she was nominated for her first and only Best Actress Academy Award. Other important films include The Razor’s Edge (1946), Dragonwyck (1946)The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947), The Iron Curtain (1948), Whirlpool (1949), and The Mating Season (1951). In the late 1940s, she struggled with mental illness which negatively affected her career. After 1955’s The Left Hand of God, Tierney was off the screen until Advice & Consent (1962). She appeared in two films after that, but her career in film effectively ended in 1964 after a guest appearance in The Pleasure Seekers.

Where the Side Walk Ends trivia:
  • This was the last film director Otto Preminger directed under contract to 20th Century-Fox.
  • It reunited Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney, cinematographer Joseph LaShelle, and Preminger who all worked on the classic film noir Laura (1944). 
  • Andrews and Tierney starred in five films together; this was their last.
  • Designer Oleg Cassini, who was married to Gene Tierney at the time, has a small role as a fashion designer in the film. While the two were married, Cassini designed many of the film costumes for Tierney.
  • Craig Stevens who played Ken Paine went on to fame on the small screen in the television series Peter Gunn.
  • Otto Preminger made more films with Dana Andrews more than any other actor; the two made five films together.

To watch the film on YouTube, click the link below.

Why watch this film?
The film has a reputation as one of the first, if not the first, of the “bad cop” films.
Dana Andrews delivers a great multi-layered performance as Dixon.
Otto Preminger was a master of the film noir genre and this is one of his best.
It’s the last time Andrews and Gene Tierney appeared together on film.

To join the discussion on October 25, 2021, at 6:30 p.m., click here. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation with a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

Discussion questions:
  1. What did you make of  Dixon’s character? Were you rooting for or against him?
  2. How do you think the director handled the subject matter? Was it believable?
  3. Did anything in the film surprise you?
  4. The film had some amazing character actors. Did you have a  favorite?
  5. Was the chemistry between Andrews and Tierney believable?
  6. Did the film end the way you expected it to? Did you find it satisfying?

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