|Film Noir rule #17: if you're an otherwise innocent man who suddenly decides to steal a large sum of money, make sure you don't steal the money from blackmailers and murderers. |
That's a lesson that Farley Granger learns the hard way in SIDE STREET (1950), a terrific little film noir that I watched this afternoon with my buddy Kelly Greene. Granger plays a part-time mail carrier with a pregnant wife. He yearns to give her and his about-to-be-born child a better life. When he delivers mail to a law office, he discovers that $200 in cash is kept in a filing cabinet. On his next delivery to the office, he finds the place empty and decides to steal the money. But unknown to Granger, he's not making off with just $200. No, he's now in possession of $30,000, money that was gained through a blackmail scheme which ended up with the lovely bait in the trap floating face down in the East River.
Granger is forced to go on the run through the streets of New York to try and recover the cash which is appropriated by the bartender he gave the money to for safekeeping. The bartender ends up dead and poor Granger is wanted for murder. He desperately tries to clear his name but the bad guys are on his tail and they'll kill anyone who gets in their way.
A great deal of SIDE STREET was shot in New York City and the location work adds a great deal of atmosphere to the film. The film's climax features a terrific early Sunday morning car chase through the deserted streets of lower Manhattan that is brilliantly staged.
Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell (who plays his sympathetic wife) had previously starred together in the 1948 film noir THEY LIVE BY NIGHT. SIDE STREET features a great supporting cast that includes sultry Jean Hagen as a doomed nightclub singer, Whit Bissell as a bank teller and noir icon Charles McGraw as a police detective. Director Anthony Mann shoots many of his interior scenes from an extreme low angle which serves to visually emphasize how trapped Granger is. Mann's previous film was BORDER INCIDENT (1949), another great noir and he followed up SIDE STREET with WINCHESTER '73 (1950), the first of his noir westerns with James Stewart.
SIDE STREET shows what happens when an innocent man yields to temptation and finds his life turned into a living nightmare. It's a classic film noir trope that is executed with consummate skill. Highly recommended.