Friday, August 13, 2010

Gene Tierney in Summer Under the Stars, Part 1

I've recommended quite a few Gene Tierney movies before, but a lot of them don't air all that frequently simply because they're Fox films: the Fox Movie Channel keeps most of them in the vaults, and TCM doesn't often get the rights to them. With August 14 being Gene Tierney's day in TCM's Summer Under the Stars, however, TCM was able to get the rights to quite a few of Tierney's movies at Fox. One that I haven't recommended before is Where the Sidewalk Ends, which airs at 11:15 AM.

Where the Sidewalk Ends isn't Tierney's movie, but Dana Andrews'. Andrews plays Det. Mark Dixon, a New York police detective who, like Kirk Douglas' character in Detective Story, has a mean streak in him a mile wide. It's reached the point where Dixon's superiors have given him an ultimatum -- stop being so violent, or we'll get you off the force. (Reminiscent of Robert Ryan in On Dangerous Ground, I suppose, although Where the Sidewalk Ends came out earlier.) Dixon is the detective investigating the crime of an apparent murder at a craps game. Gangster Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill) has been targeting rich businessmen visiting town. One of them takes offense to getting so bilked, but when he tries to protest, Scalise's heavy, Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) punches him, which results in fatal injuries to the rich old man.

Dixon, as part of the investigation, meets Paine's girlfriend, Morgan Taylor (Tierney), and immediately falls in love with her. This is a problem in a whole bunch of ways, and gets a hell of a lot worse when Dixon, in trying to question Paine, roughs him up so badly that he accidentally kills Paine! Not only that, but Morgan's father will be left as one of the prime suspects in the death of Paine. Not only didn't he like his daughter cavorting with Paine, but he's a taxi driver who drove Dixon to the place where Paine was killed.

Complicated, isn't it? To be fair, Where the Sidewalk Ends is one of those movies that's more complicated when it's described on paper than it is when you actually watch it. In fact, it's a pretty darn good movie, thanks to a hugely professional crew. Andrews and Tierney are re-teamed with director Otto Preminger, who had worked with them six years earlier on the classic Laura. In addition to the cast members mentioned above, don't miss Karl Malden in a brief role as a police lieutenant. (You can't miss his nose, of course.)

Several years back, Fox went through a phase of releasing a lot of their noirs to DVD; Where the Sidewalk Ends is one of the many noirs that got such a DVD release.

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