Where the Sidewalk Ends
Otto Preminger reunites Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney, his Laura leading couple, for a bitter noir about a hardened detective who cannot control his violent impulses. Demoted for his aggressive interrogation methods, Andrews ends up assigned to investigate a gangland murder in a gaming joint. But while questioning an obstinate suspect, Dixon accidentally kills him—a scene rendered in a single tense take by cinematographer Joseph LaShelle (The Apartment, Laura). Dixon resists his immediate and ethical impulse to report the incident to his superiors, deciding instead to hide the body and frame it as a hit by Gary Merrill’s mob. Trying to negate his crime while investigating the very case he’s just become embroiled in, Andrews slowly comes apart at the seams.
Scriptwriter par-excellence Ben Hecht—who cut his teeth on classics of the 1920s and 1930s (Scarface, Underworld, which won the first Oscar for best original story) and finished his career with a screenplay for Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death—gives Andrews a psychological complexity clearly relished by Preminger. Looking like he was born in a fedora and overcoat, Andrews’s rugged good looks and chiseled jaw provide a sharp contrast to the oily Merrill—who has a bizarre fixation with a nasal inhaler—and his hired goons (Neville Brand, Herbert Lytton). Preminger’s final film for Fox blends location work (including a standoff in an amusement park, which was sadly cut at the behest of Daryl Zanuck) with studio shots. The film plays in perpetual night across New York’s side streets, dark alleys, and back rooms where nothing is quite as it appears.
Bing Theater | $10 for the general public; $7 for LACMA members, seniors (62+), and students with valid ID; $5 LACMA Film Club members | Price includes both films on double-bill | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online