DirectorJoseph Lerner Music directorDimitri Tiomkin CountryUnited States
Release dateApril 20, 1950 (1950-04-20) (New York City) Based onthe novel
by Wade Miller
Robert Allison Wade WriterDon Ettlinger, H. William Miller (novel), Robert Allison Wade (novel) CastZachary Scott (Max Thursday), Faye Emerson (Georgia), Mary Boland (Smitty), Sam Levene (Captain Tonetti), J. Edward Bromberg (Varkas), Kay Medford (Angel) ScreenplayWade Miller, Don Ettlinger Similar moviesMysterious Intruder, The Big Sleep, Detour, Z for Zachariah, Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard
Guilty Bystander is a 1950 American film noir directed by Joseph Lerner, and starring Zachary Scott and Faye Emerson. The film marked the last motion picture screen appearances for character actors Mary Boland and J. Edward Bromberg.
Max Thursday is an alcoholic ex-cop. The only job he can find is as a house detective at his pal Smitty's hotel.
Ex-wife Georgia comes to him in a panic. Their son Jeff is missing and so is her brother Fred. She didn't go to the police after being warned not to by Dr. Elder, a business acquaintance of Fred's.
The drunken Max tries to confront Dr. Elder, but is knocked cold. He wakes up in jail to learn that Elder has been killed and he, Max, is the prime suspect. Georgia gives him an alibi, though, so Max is let out.
Now sober, Max learns that the doctor was involved in a diamond smuggling operation with Varkas, a known criminal. He learns from Varkas' helpful moll, Angel, that the gangster's men are holding Fred hostage.
Max is shot by Varkas' thugs. When he recovers, Varkas is dead, and Max finally realizes that it's his old friend Smitty who's behind the whole scheme. Jeff and Fred and rescued and a grateful Georgia welcomes them and Max back.
Zachary Scott as Max Thursday
Faye Emerson as Georgia
Mary Boland as Smitty
Sam Levene as Captain Tonetti
J. Edward Bromberg as Varkas
Kay Medford as Angel
Jed Prouty as Dr. Elder
Harry Landers as Bert
Dennis Patrick as Mace
Ray Julian as Johnny
Film critic Bosley Crowther, writing for The New York Times, calls Guilty Bystander's plot as average but notes "... the slow, sultry, steaming sadism that is usually standard in this type of film is rather effectively accomplished. The photography is full of heavy moods. And some of the melodramatic action, such as a chase in the subway, is good."
Film critic Dennis Schwartz panned the film in his review, but praised Zachary Scott's acting chops. He wrote, "Zachary Scott acts his butt off, but can't come close to saving this uninteresting film noir melodrama from how ordinary it is. It's a low-budget film that is saddled with a weak storyline and is poorly photographed. It's about a world of assorted losers: drunks, hypochondriacs, smugglers, and double-crossers ... There's just not much of a story here to sink your teeth into. The film's best asset is Scott acting out the part of a thirsty drunk."