Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Film Noir That Hits Like A Sucker Punch

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Dana Andrews Gary Merrill Gene Tierney film noir poster

Detective Sgt. Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) despises criminals. Loves nothing better than burying his knuckles into some hoodlums ribcage. Sometimes you hear the crack. That wince of pain is also satisfying. Better still, landing a clean, perfectly placed right hook, pow, straight to the jaw. He punches the air. If you’re lucky you’ll catch that sweet moment when the lights go out within their eyes. He smiles with the thought.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Dana Andrews shadows tough cop beat down

His father had been a small time crook. Stupid. Armed robbery of a liquor store. Locked up. He’d seen first hand what it does to families. The destructive nature of the criminal. Yep he detested them.  He became a cop. I ain’t my father? He’ll show them. Each and everyone. He’d become a bit notorious down at the 16th precinct and a celebrity with the tabloids. The newspapers happy to publish his criminal takedowns. His precinct not so keen with his methods of brute force. “Your job is to detect criminals Dixon, not to punish them!

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Karl Malden Gary Merrill Dana Andrews cops and gangster

He got results. It made him feel better. He was keeping the streets clean. Safe. Unfortunately his vicious nature was just about to catch up with him and bring him to Where The Sidewalk Ends.

Mark Dixon had his eyes on the nasal vaping gangster boss, Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill). They constantly locked horns. Scalise was cool with a loyal gang around him. Dixon couldn’t get to him. Scalise knew his moves, kept his business tight. Dixon was obsessed. If he waited long enough, Scalise would mess up. He’d make a mistake. Dixon was ready was to jump. “I’d bring that lowlife down, first with my fists and then with the cuffs.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Harry von Zell Neville Brand Gary Merrill gambling dice game

His moment was coming. Something dodgy was going down at an illegal dice game. Big money was on the table. Scalisi was patient. Nineteen thousands dollars was riding in the lucky hands of a Texas tycoon called Morrison (Harry von Zell). Scalisi and his boys had the game rigged. Come on! Just one more throw of the dice. Morrison had company for the night with the beautiful Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney). Little did Morrison know his next roll would lighten the roll of cash in his hand. Morgan was tired. “Take me home, please”

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Gene Tierney Bert Freed Dana Andrews Otto Preminger

From that moment on Mark Dixon eyes were focused. He would become Scalisi’s shadow. Unfortunately for Dixon he’s soon to be hiding in the shadows himself. His world as the tough, good guy, raging out justice and pain to the thugs of Manhattan might be coming to end. Sucker punches, beatings and violence followed like the Grim Reaper. What was going on? How was he going to escape being the one thing he despised?

Det. Sgt. Mark Dixon –Innocent people can get into terrible jams too. One false move and you’re over your head.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Gary Merrill gangster gun film noir drama

A Few Things To Add

  • Where The Sidewalk Ends is directed by Otto Preminger who has an incredible body of work to his name. With a good bunch of film noirs like the classic Laura and others like Fallen Angel and Whirlpool. He also hit the musicals with Porgy and Bess and Carmen Jones. Plus a selection of brilliant sounding films all with Saul Bass posters I need to see, pronto. In Harm’s Way, Advise & ConsentThe Man with the Golden Arm and of course Anatomy of a Murder. I have some truly fantastic viewing coming my way very soon. Oo and I just noticed Angel Face to add to the noirs! Spoilt for choice.
  • Based on a book by William L Stuart called Night Cry. Though I could not say how much the film resembles the novel as the film is credited to three for the story and then Ben Hecht on screenplay duties.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Neville Brand Gary Merrill Dana Andrews gangsters mob boss cop

  • Also stars Mark’s partner Det. Paul Klein (Bert Freed). Morgan’s taxi driver Dad Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully). New 16th precinct boss Lt. Thomas (Karl Malden). Morgan’s ex partner Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) and last of all Tommy Scalise loyal muscle, the tough hood Steve (Neville Brand).
  • The opening scene is excellent showing footsteps walking along the pavement of the sidewalk as the the titles are boldly writing in white chalk to the sound of a whistling man.
  • What is Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill) snorting throughout the film? Lee Marvin’s character is addicted to it also in the superb “colour” noir, 1955s Violent Saturday.
  • One of the best bits that lightens the darkness is the banter with the landlady of Martha’s Cafe (Ruth Donnelly) where Mark takes the lovely Morgan on a “date”.

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Martha's Cafe (Ruth Donnelly) Gary Merrill Dana Andrews

Mark – “It’s the worst food in town, but don’t worry. They usually serve a stomach pump with the dessert.Martha – “Who invited you to come to my restaurant, Mr. Detective? Not me!Mark – “Bring us two of your dangerous dinners, Martha.Martha – “You know how much I’ve been offered to poison this man?” Mark – “Ten dollars?Martha – “That’s right. I’m holding out for fifteen. Two dinners. Do you want wine?” Mark – “Bring a small bottleMartha – “Huh! Same old cheapskate!

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Dana Andrews film noir car lift gangsters lair

Now Where The Sidewalk Ends gripped me right out the gate. The lush greyscale of the photography made the black and white shadows so rich and raw. The dialogue and quick witted banter flew round aplenty keeping this film noir busling along. The pace is tight and filled with surprising ultraviolence for a film from 1950. The punches surprise. Sucker punches that really hit home. I had to rewind one just to slow it down to see how on Earth they filmed it. It was savage and straight at the screen. The script makes you feel for the characters. You’re of the edge of your seat. Desperate to see how it will all play out. Every now and then you hit these films that really resonate home. Yep this film was perfect for me. I wanna watch it again.  What about you? Have you seen this one? What’s your favourite Otto Preminger? I got a whole heap of wonderful catching up to do.

Keep watching the the screens. Thanks for popping on by.

Mikey Wolf.


19 thoughts on “Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) Film Noir That Hits Like A Sucker Punch

  1. I’ve had the opportunity to watch this a few times. I passed those opportunities up, foolishly I now realize. Very good writing, Mikey. Oh and about all that snorting, I’ll give you a line from the immortal Cab Calloway:

    She messed around with a bloke named Smokey
    She loved him though was cokey

    And this from Ella Fitzgerald:
    Some get a kick from cocaine,
    I’m sure that if,
    I took even one sniff,
    It would bore me terrifically, too…

    Then again, it could be a cold.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know of Otto Preminger, of course, but when I looked up his movies–of which there seem to be THOUSANDS–I actually don’t think I’ve seen even one! How can that be, I wonder? We just got through watching two Bogart movies recently, so no idea why Otto has slipped beneath the radar….. Nice review, though! I felt like I was actually watching the movie due to the “good guy/toughguy noir” language used to write the post–
    “Sucker punches, beatings and violence followed like the Grim Reaper” — Lol !!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the beauty of digging into all these old films. There are countless movies and stories that keep popping up. A conveyor belt of exciting movies coming at you from all corners. I wanna see them all but obviously that would be impossible but the brilliant thing is there’s alway a new discovery, a new journey to delve into. I’ve been loving watching Bogart’s films too. So many new to me. Working my way through. Each time you see something it leads to another director or star. Low and behold another list of films to add to the mountainous pile. I love it.
      Hehe thanks for picking out a quote, this one was fun to do.
      All the best… Mikey
      PS I’m sure like me you will have a fantastic time discovering Otto’s back catalogue.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post Wolfie 🙂 So glad to see you cover this film. I too am a huge fan of director Otto Preminger. Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂 Here is a link regarding my favorite films of his


    P.S. me and blogger Cindy are doing a blog entry regarding our top 3 favorite Robert Altman films and in case you are interested, here is a link to Cindy’s blog entry below


    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks for the links John. I’m off to investigate your Otto post right now Sir.
      I will endeavor to read your and Cindy’s post soon. Yes I am very interested and very much look forward to it. I’ll be back over the next few days as I try and catch up with comments and posts. All the best.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great pick. I guess Laura from Preminger with Dana and Gene is the most famous title for the trio. Got a kick out of Preminger as an actor as well in Stalag 17. I keep meaning to revisit and feature In Harm’s Way. Always liked that one. Nice to see Mr. Brand spotlighted in pics above as well. One tough looking dude. Almost scared me out of my chair with the new look above as well. Nicely done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha sorry about that Mike. Fancied a little change. A metamorphosis wolf seemed appropriate. Thanks. I have been eager to get to Stalag 17 for a year or so. Just had to do a double take! Otto is in that and Neville Brand! I think that will be this weekend’s viewing sorted. Thanks for the kick up the jacksy!
      Also the nod towards “In Harm’s Way” Got my eye on that one. Sounds right up my street. Cheers dude, as always.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Whoa, what’s going on here…a new blog design! At first I thought I’d been sent to the wrong site! Pretty cool, Mikey…granted, it’ll take some getting used to, but I’ll live.

    And yes, quite the brutal noir film there! Interesting to see Dana Andrews play such a character…I’m used to his noir roles in ‘Laura’ and ‘The Dark Corner’. And this story from the filming of ‘Angel Face’ made me like Robert Mitchum even more than I already did: “When Robert Mitchum got fed up with repeated re-takes in which director Otto Preminger ordered him to slap Jean Simmons across the face, he turned around and harshly slapped Preminger, asking if that was the way he wanted it.”

    Now THAT’s noir!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah you do get used to a sites layout and then some smart alec comes along and changes the bloomin thing hehe. Fancied a little change. A metamorphosis of the wolf seemed appropriate. Thanks.

      Oh yes The Dark Corner is awesome I loved that and of course Laura. You know what Todd I’m gonna settle in for Angel Face right now. What a great anecdote! “Now THAT’s noir!” you’re not wrong bro. Mitchum is definitely not someone you would wanna mess with but that some balls to slap the director. I bet he got some from Miss Jean later in the caravan! Hehe.


  6. Ha, I bet after that moment Mitchum got some from EVERY female on that set! And I don’t know how you feel about listening to audio commentaries, but Eddie Muller does one for ‘Angel Face’ (depending on the version you have), and his info and insights on noir are always outstanding and, to me, are worth a listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know of Eddie Muller until just now! Just watched his after words to Angel Face on yt. How good is he? I can’t believe I haven’t seen him before. I love Eddies’ description of Mitchum and the battle Jean Simmons sounds like she had on set. Howard Hughes sounds like a right arse! I feel a right arse not knowing Eddie Muller. Off to investigate his Noir Alley.

      I rarely watch a commentary to a film but I do like to listening to them at work as audio on my headphones if I can. “The Thing” with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell is awesome (on yt)

      BTW loved Angel Face. That slap came much nearer to the beginning than I had expected. And those reversing cars!! JEEPERS. Superb film, really liked it.
      Crazy realisation whilst watching Jean Simmons was I knew I had recently seen her but I couldn’t figure it out. Then it slapped me like Mitchum in the kisser. She was the saucy little minx in Black Narcissus. All Indianed up! Classic Doh! moment I didn’t recognize her.


      • Yeah, Eddie Muller does a really great job with his noir audio commentaries…you learn quite a lot, and his behind-the-scenes stories are fun. I’ll search out noir DVDs just so I can listen to him (and he’s done quite a few). And I agree, that commentary for ‘The Thing’ was great…they also have one for ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ that’s definitely worth a listen.

        Lots of slaps in noir films! I still think the one Kirk Douglas gives to Jane Greer in ‘Out of the Past’ was ad-libbed…the look on her face when he slaps her is priceless, and makes me think she had no idea it was coming.

        Wait…”saucy little minx” you say? I’ll have to give that one a look!

        Liked by 1 person

        • “Noir Slaps” could make a good book. They cross both genders so no ones would need to get their knickers in a twist. I’d buy it. Yeah that “Out of the Past” is a shocker.
          Big thanks for the tip on BTILC. Off to find that to help me get through the week at work. Thanks buddy.
          I hope your “saucy little minx” investigations went well 🙂
          Oh I’ll be definitely be keeping an eye out for Eddie Muller commentary DVD’s next time I’m browsing the shelves.


          • So a quick question: are you searching out Big Trouble in Little China because you’ve never seen it before, or because you’ve seen it, and are interested in the commentary? Oh wait, you’re checking it out at work…I’m guessing you’ve seen it, and will be enjoying the commentary!

            And good god, ‘Noir Slaps’ would be awesome…I’d grab a copy at any price!

            Liked by 1 person

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