Those eyes, that right hook, that penmanship! It could be no one else but Dana Andrews!
Otto Preminger directed a number of gritty crime dramas for Fox in the late 40's including Laura, which like Sidewalk also starred Andrews and Gene Tierney. Although Laura received more critical acclaim, I personally prefer Sidewalk as it feels a little more realistic, a little deeper, and definitely grittier and less aimed at the movie-going mainstream. It feels more like a labor of love than a contractual obligation, if that makes sense.
A brief recap of the film - Andrews plays Detective Mark Dixon, the son of a two bit crook, who became a cop to put away hoods and clean up the streets. During an investigation Dixon accidentally kills Ken Paine, a suspect in a murder with ties to local gangsters. While trying to cover it up to save his own hide, Dixon makes a cab driver the prime suspect, who is Payne's father-in-law, and subsequently the father of the woman Dixon falls for. Dixon then tries to divert blame to local gangster Scalise while battling with the guilt of the crime he committed, "walking around half cop and half killer".
Preminger's direction subconsciously makes the viewer sympathetic to Dixon's troubles. In most of the scenes he is the outcast, standing on the outside of conversations, gatherings, always in the background a little, brooding, maybe battling his inner demons. Andrews has the kind of face that is perfect for this role. Again like Keaton, he is both cold and emotionless while simultaneously pitiful and the guy you want things to work out for.
While the film may not be as revered as Laura or other noir flicks from the period like Sunset Blvd or The Stranger, Where the Sidewalk Ends is a quick paced, entertaining look at the underbelly of 1940's Manhattan and how the best intentions can still land us in a mess. Although Andrews was pretty much typecast by this point, he plays the role well. Those big sympathetic eyes and square build make him almost made for the role of the well-meaning bad guy, or the flawed but sympathetic good guy, where ever you choose to file him.
Before I found this writing topic I couldn't have picked Dana Andrews out of a line up just by his name. It's weird because he's who I picture when I think of noir films - I think he's pretty much the poster child for the genre. I just never knew his name. A recognizable face and an actor in a ton of movies I love, I'm really glad I took the opportunity to learn more about him. He was one of the underdogs of Hollywood, a talented actor with a solid filmography, was all over the place for decades, but another star that you don't really hear about today.
You can learn tons more about Dana Andrews and his films from the blogathon happening at http://classicmovieman.blogspot.com/!