Tonight's Saturday Night Cinema is Otto Preminger's "fascinating brutish and dark film noir that is set in the corrupt milieu of the underworld." The seedy side of New York is the setting for this bad-cop noir pairing of Dana Andrews with his "Laura" (an Atlas top ten) co-star, the luminous and beautiful Gene Tierney. Great stuff.
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) NY Times
This graphically-presented account of a sadistic detective who accidentally kills a man and tries to pin it on a slippery public enemy doesn't have the over-all trigger tension of "Kiss of Death" or the picturesqueness of "Cry of the City." And the plausibility of the script by Ben Hecht, an old hand with station houses and sleazy underworldlings, is open to question on several counts. Not so, however, his pungent dialogue and unfolding of the plot, which Otto Preminger, who guided the same stars through "Laura" several seasons back, has taken to like a duck to water and kept clipping along crisply till the fadeout.
Mr. Andrews is on the spot, and a spot it is. With a killer father in his past and constantly in the police departmental doghouse for banging the citizenry around, he fatally floors a fugitive with a lead plate in his head, a fine war record and some newspaper friends. His frenzied camouflaging is meant to point the finger at an ancient gangster foe but instead victimizes an innocent cab driver, Miss Tierney's father. The showdown, a shoot-'em-up corralling of the gangsters in a huge garage, accidentally clears Mr. Andrews, and he's the white-haired boy at headquarters. And, of course, Miss Tierney is all ready and waiting. But Mr. Andrews decides to spill the beans and marches off under arrest. Mr. Hecht, take a deep bow!
The most winning things in the picture are the minor characterizations: Tom Tully as the cabbie, Ruth Donnelly as a tart-tongued hash-slinger, Bert Freed as Mr. Andrews' disapproving pal. Gary Merrill, as the intended victim, is one of the most convincing gangsters since Scarface. Mr. Preminger's megaphoning and some expert photography have resulted in a most vivid blend of action and New York City backgrounds.
Miss Tierney is lovely, as usual, and even works up a little animation for a change. But it must be said that Mr. Andrews, who bears the brunt of the picture, performs more intelligently than convincingly. Even with a bulldog mouth, he looks much too level-headed to be a natural-born sadist. Again, it is doubtful if a man of his supposed calibre would give himself up to justice so valiantly. But the real eyebrow-raiser is the scene where the boys at the station house swoop down like triumphant hawks on the naive, open-faced cabbie.
Fox may not have plumbed the depths of realism this time, but it still looks interesting, even two-thirds of the way down.
The Roxy stage is presenting an ice revue, "The Merry Widow," and Vivian Blaine and Will Mahoney.
WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, screen play by Ben Hecht, as adapted by Victor Trivas, Frank P. Rosenberg and Robert E. Kent from a novel by William L. Stuart; directed and produced by Otto Preminger for Twentieth Century-Fox.
Mark Dixon . . . . . Dana Andrews
Morgan Taylor . . . . . Gene Tierney
Scalise . . . . . Gary Merrill
Klein . . . . . Bert Freed
Jiggs Taylor . . . . . Tom Tully
Lieut. Thomas . . . . . Karl Malden
Martha . . . . . Ruth Donnelly
Ken Paine . . . . . Craig Stevens
Inspector Foley . . . . . Robert Simon
Ted Morrison . . . . . Harry von Zell
Mrs. Tribaum . . . . . Grace Mills