Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Where The Sidewalk Ends


Those eyes, that right hook, that penmanship! It could be no one else but Dana Andrews!


From The Ox-Bow Incident with Henry Fonda and Daisy Kenyon with Joan Crawford, to The Devil's Brigade with William Holden and The Last Tycoon with Robert DeNiro, Andrews has worked with just about everyone of note through a career that spanned over four decades.  He is most recognized, however, for his string of noir films from the late 40's through the early 60s.  One of my personal favorites from his filmography is Where The Sidewalk Ends.

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".


Andrews is perfect for roles where the character's sense of self preservation and conflicting morals need to ooze off the screen. I believe Andrews would be what you'd get if James Cagney and Buster Keaton had a child together.  He can pull off the role of the sympathetic heavy, but like Keaton can own a scene with the bat of an eye.  The scene in Sidewalk where he receives a phone call from his partner after just killing Paine where he's informed Paine is a war hero and shouldn't be harmed needs little, if any, words from Andrews' character. The range of emotions he goes through just from the look on his face makes very clear the internal conflict he's dealing with.

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/!

11 comments:

  1. The character in Where the Sidewalk Ends is called "Mark," a clear allusion to Mark McPherson in Laura, and just in case you missed that, there's also his co-star Gene Tierney to remind you. In some ways, she plays the same role Alice Faye plays in Fallen Angel. Tierney has faith in Mark even when he seems to lose faith in himself. Without her, he would be lost. It is interesting how Preminger put together a sort of screen biography of Dana Andrews from Laura to Fallen Angel to Where the Sidewalk Ends. Dana Andrews, the man, was not exactly the brooding type, but he sure under those types of characters.

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    1. I wish I couldve watched them back to back, it has been a while since ive seen Laura, Im sure there are a ton of similarities and references that I missed out on.

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  2. Glad you picked this neglected gem. It was a box office failure when released, but it's really quite entertaining and has a great performance from Dana. He's kind of like Mark McPherson from Laura gone bad. And Tierney is like one of the models Laura Hunt might have hired for her advertising agency in Laura. Both have seen better days, but somehow find each other and establish a strong bond. And you have to love Ruth Donnelly as the sharp-tongued waitress who mothers Dana's character in a tough, comical way. Thanks for participating in the blogathon. Good work here!

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    1. Donnelly cracks me up! I loved the dialogue between the two of them.

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  3. such a great movie and a nice post to do it justice. Dana is so fedorable in that first pic! don't think anyone wore them better. I like this one a little better than Laura too and I like your comparison to elements of Cagney--tough but sympathetic-- and Keaton--expressive. glad I found your blog thru this event and look forward to checking it out! thanks

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    1. Im so going to use "fedorable" in the future. Its perfect for Andrews :)

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  4. One of my favorite Dana Andrews movies. I also like it better than "Laura", though both have great supporting characters. Thanks.

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  5. I think this sentence of yours really sums up Andrews' unique talent: "The range of emotions he goes through just from the look on his face makes very clear the internal conflict he's dealing with." It's so great seeing him and his acting style get so much love here (and in the rest of the blogathon as well).

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  6. This is a good tribute - not only to the film but to Dana Andrews as an actor. I think he's underrated in some ways, so I was glad to read your post. Nice job!

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  7. Oh, wow, I'm so glad this blogathon gave you the opportunity to really get to know the under-rated, but always-solid, Dana Andrews!! He is definitely worth getting to know!

    Although he was known for film noir, my favorite of his films is "The Best Years of Our Lives." I also like his war films and even his romances, especially "My Foolish Heart."

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