A Movie with alot of Drive!,
This review is from: They Drive By Night (DVD)"They Drive by Night",released in July 1940 and a remake of a British film done just two years earlier,is an absorbing tale of two men in that decades old venerable trade of long haul trucking;the men who ply the roadways at night delivering the goods from point A to point B.
The story here involves the Fabrini brothers, Paul(Bogie)and Joe(Raft) who own their truck but work for a crooked boss.They,like many others,get stiffed when it comes to getting paid.When their truck unexpectedly breaks down they have a final confrontation with their boss,collect their dues by force and leave his employ.The boys have been told they should hook up with Carlsen trucking where they get paid a salary and the company takes all the risk,but at this point they like the independent life too much.One day Joe takes a gamble and buys a load of lemons to haul,thereby becoming their own bosses.While on the road Paul falls asleep at the wheel and runs off the road.The truck,which they had just paid off,is a ruin and while Joe had been thrown clear of the crash,Paul comes out of it minus his right arm.
As Paul convalesces at home,Joe finally relents and goes to work for Mr Carlsen(Alan Hale).Carlsen is a straight shooting and very affable man and treats Joe very well.However his wife Lana(Ida Lupino) has had a crush on Joe for a long time and refuses to let Joe alone.Lana is a frustrated individual who hates her life with Carlsen.And even though Joe has fallen for a waitress he came to know by the name of Cassie(Ann Sheridan),it still doesn't deter Lana from her pursuit of Joe.After a
long night of partying Lana drives her husband home and parks the car in their garage.She sits thinking for a moment about everything and her expression alone tells us what is to come.She walks out of the garage,the car still running, and closes the doors behind her.Her husband is of course found dead the next day and after a short routine interrogation by the D.A., she is let go.
Now that she is "free" of her burden she finds her life alone isn't exactly a bed of roses.She brings Joe in to the firm as a half partner,trying to get him closer to her.After a particularly nasty confrontation with Lana, Joe reveals he is going to marry his fiance.Lana in a fit of rage reveals she killed her husband for him.Joe is shocked and leaves.Lana thinks Joe may head for the police so she beats him to the punch and claims to the police it was Joe that made her kill her husband under duress.A trial ensues and Lana,worn down in body and spirit, takes the stand.She just stares into oblivion and starts to rant on to herself and the crowded courtroom.It turns out to be a bizarre confession and Joe is set free,while Lana goes back to a long incarceration;very much insane.
The movie ends with Joe wanting to leave the Carlsen firm and strike out on his own again.But the workers,with a little bit of help from Cassie,talk him out of going.Fade to black.
This story grabs you right from the beginning.The two main characters of Joe and Paul are very likable,as are most of the other drivers,Joes girlfriend Cassie,and Mr Carlsen played very well by Alan Hale Sr.(father to the future skipper of the SS Minnow!).So when a bad element is thrown into the mix it really stands out.Lupino plays a beautiful part here of a frustrated wife who is hemmed in by her matrimonial obligations and longs for something she can't nor will never have.Her frustration goes to anger then is vented in cold blooded murder then ultimately it drives her insane.That moment in the garage as the camera is focused strictly on her face and we watch her thought processes right before our eyes is just plain great acting...period.
Raft,along with Cagney and Robinson,were the top tough guys of this era(Bogie would soon join the group).Raft,like Cagney,had great talent in the dancing department(see his film "Bolero"/34,for a taste) and he was at the top of his career at this point.Unlike Cagney and Robinson though,Raft really did have connections to racketeers and openly admitted several times he had been financed during his career by more than one crime figure to make it in Hollywood.
Bogart was still a supporting player but that would change within a year or so as "High Sierra","The Maltese Falcon" and finally "Casablanca" would shoot him to super stardom.Ann Sheridan was a talented but underrated actress who could act very well(see "Kings Row",1942) and also
sing(see "Thank Your Lucky Stars",/43).Ida Lupino was a rising star at this time but a good solid performer.Her breakthrough role would come in 1947 with "Escape me Never", but she became a director during this era and never looked back.She continued to act and direct in films,as well as in countless television shows over the years.
Technically speaking the film print here is very good and has been transferred well.Extras included are a featurette on the film,its trailer and a nicely restored three strip Technicolour short of 1940 called "Swingtime in the Movies".
All in all the film sports a solid cast,a decent and engaging script and good direction by veteran Raoul Walsh.This is Raft at his peak,and a good chance to see rising stars Bogart,Sheridan and Lupino in their pre-star days.A good film addition to any DVD collection.