They Drive by Night

They Drive by Night (1940) movie poster

(1940) dir. Raoul Walsh
viewed: 01/26/09

I’ve been on a tear of old Warner Brothers features from the 1930’s and 1940’s, a fair amount of Humphrey Bogart and a solid amount of Raoul Walsh films.  This is the fourth Walsh film I’ve seen in the last 6 months.  How many more people do you know that can say that?  I watched High Sierra (1941), White Heat (1949), and The Thief of Bagdad (1924).  Of course, this film has most in common with High Sierra, coming a year before it and featuring Bogart just before he broke big.

In fact, this film is far more a George Raft and Ida Lupino flick.  And Lupino pretty much steals the show.  She has a noted hystrionic coo-coo crack-up toward the end of the film, but actually, the scene in which she decides to kill her husband is the film’s best.  The camera is on her face as she looks down at her drunken husband and the off-switch on the automobile.  In the long take, we see her look outwardly, getting the idea to murder him, then deciding to follow through.  It’s as good as noir, that sequence, big time.

The film is a little weird, starting out as more of a social realism film about two brothers who are truck drivers, having a hard time making the American dream come to them.  But about half-way through it becomes more of a crime film, quite a bit noirish, and contains probably the better parts of the film.  It’s an odd mixture, which is attributed to the way that the film was adapted and how it borrowed from another film its latter plot points.  It doesn’t matter a whole lot,…it’s pretty solid stuff.

Bogart is the smaller part, fourth-billed, just before he became a star in Walsh’s High Sierra.  Actually, those two flicks would be a good double-feature if you’re looking for one.  And George Raft actually sounds a lot as if he could have been Bogart’s brother.  Good Hollywood fare.

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