On Fridays we watch film noir: Where the sidewalk ends (19500

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After working together on Laura in 1944, Otto Preminger reunited with Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney for this 1950 masterpiece. Andrews plays Mark Dixon, a cop haunted by  the criminal activities of his father. He’s not a bad guy, but his violent behaviour with criminals gets him into hot water with his boss who gives him a final warning. When he accidentally kills a suspect, Dixon covers it up and gets rid of the body, fearing it will end his career. He hopes to pin it on local crime boss Scalise whose presence is enough to send him into a rage. Things get complicated though when Dixon falls for the dead man’s wife (Gene Tierney) and her father is accused of the murder. Can Dixon really let him take the rap? Will he lose the girl if he comes clean? This film is not so much a whodunnit as a study of moral ethics. Although not as hard-boiled as Humphrey Bogart or Glenn Ford (although Dixon’s obsession with Scalise reminds me of Glenn Ford’s lone quest in Fritz Lang’s The Big Heat), Dana Andrews has the tortured expression of a man desperate to shake off his past, longing to find a connection with someone but whose very actions only serve to alienate his friends and colleagues. He and Gene Tierney seem very comfortable together and there’s great chemistry between them. You can’t help feeling they could have helped one another if they’d only met in different circumstances. The searing music is used infrequently, notably for the opening credits when it’s whistled and again later to increase the dramatic tension. Where the sidewalk ends is as gritty as Laura was glossy; a city of seedy bars, crap tables and glistening streets, beautifully captured in Joseph LaShelle’s brilliant photography, where two bit hoodlums gather on the corner.  It’s a true masterpiece from a director in perfect control of his art.

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