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Film / Where the Sidewalk Ends

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Where the Sidewalk Ends is a 1950 Film Noir, directed by Otto Preminger and starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney. The screenplay by Ben Hecht was adapted from the 1948 novel Night Cry by William L. Stuart.

Mark Dixon (Andrews) is a violent NYPD cop haunted by his father's criminal past. When he accidentally kills Ken Paine (Craig Stevens) while investigating a murder, he hides his crime and tries to pin it on a kingpin criminal, Tommy Scalise (Gary Merril). Dixon is unable to prove the Scalise connection, however, and more problems arise when his superior, Lt. Thomas (Karl Malden), is convinced that Paine’s father-in-law, Jiggs Taylor (Tom Tully), committed the murder. Incapable of confessing to the crime, Dixon tries to set things straight by helping Jiggs's daughter, Morgan (Tierney), find legal help.


Not to be confused with the children's poetry book of the same name by by Shel Silverstein.

Where the Sidewalk Ends shows the following tropes:

  • All for Nothing: Mark’s confession letter wasn’t necessary: it was never opened.
  • Anti-Hero: Mark Dixon, the brutal cop.
  • Asshole Victim: Ken. He’s a wife-beater who took Morgan to an illegal gambling room just to lure a man for his money.
  • Big Bad: Scalise and his group of mobsters.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: New York is NOT cast in a friendly light here.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Morgan’s father is finally released but Mark confesses to the murder and will probably go to jail.
  • Bruiser With A Soft Centre: Mark softens around Morgan.
  • City Noir: The film takes place in NYC.
  • Chiaroscuro: The lighting in this film is a perfect example of the beauty of film noir lighting. Joseph LaShelle did the cinematography.
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  • Crime After Crime: Mark's attempted coverup just gets worse and worse, with more crimes piling up after another.
  • Daddy's Girl: Morgan is very close to her father and moves in with him after she separates from Ken.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Mark is the son of a criminal.
  • Dead Man Writing: Mark confesses to his crime, thinking that he'll get killed by Scalise in the process.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Martha to Mark whenever he's in her café.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Mark pretends to be Ken to cover up the murder. He dresses up like him, goes to a train station as him, and comes back to dump the body.
  • Death Is the Only Option: Mark knows that if he goes to meet up with Scalise it's his demise. He uses this to secure Jiggs's innocence.
  • Domestic Abuse: Morgan leaves Ken because of his beatings. This fact also convinces Lt. Thomas that her father had serious motive to kill Ken.
  • Film Noir: From the classic era.
  • Freudian Excuse: Mark's whole hatred of the “wrong” side of the law stems from his father's criminal past. He also hates Scalise because he was chummy with his father.
  • From Bad to Worse: The murder cover-up gets worse and worse as Lt. Thomas pins the murder on Jiggs.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Mark's attempts to deflect the suspicion from him works well. What goes horribly wrong is that Morgan’s father gets framed instead.
  • I Am Not My Father: The biggest motivation for Mark becoming a cop was to be nothing like his crook father.
  • Local Hangout: Martha’s Café for Mark. Here he trades sarcastic insults with the waitress/owner, Martha (played by the wonderful Ruth Donnelly), something they both love to do.
  • Loners Are Freaks: Mark is unhappy and considered strange for his ruthlessness by his superiors and even by Scalise.
  • Love Redeems: Mark's relationship with Morgan affects his life and helps him make the right decision when he has the choice to hide his crime or fess up.
  • Maybe Ever After: Morgan reads Mark's confession letter but still makes it clear that she still wants to be with him.
  • Motive = Conclusive Evidence: Once the police realize Jiggs had a motive to kill Ken, they're more than happy to pin the murder on him, despite evidence backing this claim being circumstantial at best.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: When Mark goes to get a confession out Scalise, it only gives the mobsters a chance to beat the crap out of him.
  • Oh, Crap!: Mark's reaction when Ken doesn't get up from a slug to the chest.
  • Police Are Useless: They're ready to pin a murder on an innocent man with only circumstantial evidence.
  • Police Brutality: This the moving force of the plot. Dixon has gotten many warnings about his violent behaviour towards suspects, so much so that he will be demoted if it happens again. His altercation with Ken Paine, and his subsequent death, makes him turn into a full out criminal.
  • Rabid Cop: Mark is really brutal.
  • The Stool Pigeon: A member of the Scalise gang gives away their hideout, saving Mark.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Dixon has the chance to walk away from the whole ordeal and pin Paine's death on Scalise after they are arrested, but he instead chooses to confess, proving that he is indeed different from his father.
  • Would Hit a Girl: We're introduced to Ken by him smacking Morgan across the face.
  • Wrongly Accused: Morgan's father becomes suspect number one when the police hear about his motive (being angry about Ken hitting Morgan) and being at the scene of the crime.