Friday, March 26, 2010

Side Street (1950) Anthony Mann

A black and white New York City is the star of this movie, along with Farley Granger and director, Anthony Mann. Cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg) and camera angles make this film worth watching for those alone. You’ll be mesmerized by the light and shadows, aerial views of the city, and the gritty street scenes. But the acting is also superb.

Granger is completely believable as a man who wants to do the right thing, makes a bad mistake, and bears the consequences as everything spirals out of control. Jean Hagen has a small but memorable role as a nightclub singer (interestingly, her singing is dubbed, as she will later be famously dubbed in “Singin’ in the Rain”). James Craig has a strong role as a bad guy and is convincingly sinister. Paul Kelly plays a detective and also the narrator; stylistically, the movie begins and ends like a documentary (“This is the story of Joe Norson...”). And during the first few minutes of the movie, the narrator provides statistics of New Yorkers with various police and street scenes. The friendly, all-good, ever-present police piece is a funny little oddity but it sets up the movie well.

Gravel-voiced Charles McGraw has a small part as a detective (look for him in “Narrow Margin” instead). And Adele Jergens makes a brief appearance as a beautiful, cold, calculating, and not-so-lucky blackmailer.

If you’re a fan of artful film-making, you need to see this movie. And don’t miss a second of the chase scene at the end of the movie. Besides Harry Bellaver as the cabbie with second thoughts, the street-scene cinematography will amaze you.

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