Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Farley Granger, 1925-2011

Actor Farley Granger, whose relatively short but noteworthy film career included the Alfred Hitchcock movies Rope (from which the photo at left is taken) and Strangers on a Train, died over the weekend at the age of 85. A brief search of the blog claims that I haven't recommended Side Street (on DVD but not on TV any time soon) yet, so today would be a good day to do so.

Granger plays Joe, a postman in New York who's got a wife (Cathy O'Donnell) and kid on the way, which means that he needs money. One day, he spots a few bills that have fallen to the floor in the office of lawyer Edmon Ryan, who is on his route. The next day, he decides to take those bills from the filing cabinet, but discovers that he's stolen not a few bills, but $30,000! Joe leaves the money with a bartender friend, wrapped up as a gift, but the bartender and the money both go missing, and people start dying, including the bartender who had his package. Joe's got Ryan, who is clearly engaging in some sort of illegal activity (blackmail, as it turns out), on his tail, but also has the police. If noir teaches us anything, it's that honesty is probably the best policy.

To be truthful, Side Street has a plot that can be a bit difficult to follow at times, but one that's well worth watching. Granger is good as the poor average Joe who gets involved in circumstances that are way, way over his head. But just as good is the cinematography. The movie was filmed on location in New York, and there are a lot of great location shots, including of a cavernous lower Manhattan for the final chase scene on a Sunday morning. (I can't help but think it's a bit unrealistic that any part of New York could be that empty on a Sunday morning.) The supporting roles, which also include Jean Hagen playing something reminiscent of, but dissimilar to her role in the same year's The Asphalt Jungle, and Charles McGraw plays another policeman.

Side Street has gotten a couple of DVD releases; the one more worth mentioning today is as part of a double-bill with They Live By Night, which also stars Granger and Cathy O'Donnell.

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