Guilty Bystander (1950)


Guilty Bystander (1950)

An alcoholic ex-cop, now the house detective at a scuzzy hotel in an even scuzzier part of town, stumbles through New York City's sleazy underworld searching for his kidnapped son.
IMDb   6.1 /10
TheMovieDb    5.0 /10
FilmAffinity   6.3 /10
Director Joseph Lerner
Writer Don Ettlinger
Writer H. William Miller
Writer Robert Allison Wade
Release Date1950-04-21
Runtime1h 31mins
GenreCrime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
Content Rating
CompanyEdmund L. Dorfmann Productions Inc., Laurel Films, New York Film Associates Ltd.
Max Thursday
Mary Boland
Mary Boland
Sam Levene
Sam Levene
Capt. Tonetti
J. Edward Bromberg
J. Edward Bromberg
Jed Prouty
Jed Prouty
Dr. Elder
Elliott Sullivan
Elliott Sullivan
Ray Julian
Ray Julian
Mace (as Denns Harrison)
Garney Wilson
Garney Wilson
Donald Novis
Donald Novis
Lou Herbert
Lou Herbert

Guilty Bystander

Guilty Bystander is a 1950 American crime drama 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 are 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


Critical response

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."