They Drive By Night

TheyDriveByNightSuggested by Brad Nelson • Brothers Paul and Joe Fabrini run a trucking business in California mainly shipping fruit from farms to the markets in Los Angeles. They struggle to make ends meet in the face of corrupt businessmen and intense competition.
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6 Responses to They Drive By Night

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    George Raft and Humphrey Bogart go together like Bogie and Bacall. They starred in many films together. Arguably, Raft made Bogart a star and Bogart then eclipsed Raft.

    In this one, Raft gets top billing. He’s not a gangster or a thug. He plays a hard-working, honest truck driver who does his best to stay on the straight and narrow…a trait particularly useful as a truck driver — a trait not everyone (including his brother, played by Bogie) shares.

    This movie progresses from a story of two brothers struggling in the trucking business to a few twists and turns, including a love affair, a bad love affair, accidents, and more. This is a movie that starts out as one thing and then becomes another. But it does so in a way that feels more like telling an entire story rather than just sticking to one theme and supporting it to the end.

    Ann Sheridan is wonderful as Raft’s love interest. And (oops, again) Ida Lupino — well, I still just don’t get her. But she plays the wife of Alan Hale and is central to the latter half of the movie when we progress beyond the nitty gritty of truck drivers trying to make it from one fill-up to another and one step ahead of the repo man.

    At 95 minutes, this is just the right length for a good, old black-and-white movie with a great cast, a good story, and very little boredom. You move all over the place, so the story never wears on you. It’s always going someplace new. You’re always picking up a new load of something.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Raft, like Bogart and James Cagney, was famous for his tough-guy thug roles, so I suppose it’s no surprise that (like them) he sometimes played other types. (I don’t know if either Bogart or Raft ever played the sort of lighter role that Cagney did in Yankee Doodle Dandy and One, Two, Three.) I do recall reading of a later mobster who modeled his behavior on Raft’s gangsters.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        Here’s an essay titled How George Raft Made Humphrey Bogart a Star. I like Raft, although I admit he’s a little wooden. But he’s wooden in an old-movie sort of way. It works.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Interesting article. I hadn’t realized that Raft was so eager to stop playing roles that were natural for him. I recall that Rich Little once was a guest villain on Hawaii Five-O — an impressionist with a fondness for the old tough-guy movies, especially Bogart, who commits a series of murders (he has his reasons) re-enacting various of the Bogart dying scenes.

          One very nice Peter Lorre role late in his career was with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, and Basil Rathbone in the superb comedy The Comedy of Terrors. (“She sings like a nightingale.” If this isn’t on the videoshelf, it definitely should be.)

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Rain rain rain. But it gave me a chance to blow through a few Bogie movies this weekend. A round-up with brief impressions:

    The Maltese Falcon: Full of iconic characters. A remake of this that extended it from mostly in-office scenes to go outside and move around a bit might be nice. It’s a little dialogue-dependent, as good as much of it is.

    The Big Sleep: Lauren Bacall is clearly not the prime daughter. I’ve read that the role of her sister, Carmen (played by Martha Vickers), was reduced in editing because she’s so smoking hot and thus lessened the impact of Bacall…for whom extra sexual innuendo footage with Bogie was shot months later to try to capitalize on her persona in “To Have and Have Not” — the Bacall movie I far prefer to this, at least regarding her role. She’s pretty thin in this one, in more ways than one. And if you can follow the plot, you’re a better man than I am.

    Kid Galahad: A harmlessly entertaining boxing movie. I wouldn’t call this Michael Curtiz’s best work. Bette Davis sparkles as “Fluff.” And Edward G. plays Edward G. and Bogie plays Bogie. Sort of a cornball story. My interest flagged a bit on this one. The hayseed they found to play Kid Galahad needed more filling out…or perhaps Wayne Morris simply did a superb job playing a hayseed.

    Dark Victory: Another film with Bogie and Bette Davis, although Bette is the star and lead character. Bogie is this rich girl’s horse trainer. The movie suffers from the rather stolid George Brent who plays Davis’ doctor and love interest. Fireworks with Bogie would have been better. Another film where my attention flagged and the story was a bit one-dimensional. Ronald Reagan plays a truly forgettable side-character. Bette Davis is enough to carry this picture, but there’s not much else.

    Invisible Stripes: This is the best of the last three and I may put it on the Bookshelf. George Raft and Bogie star in another film together. They both just got out of prison. The warden has high hopes for Raft who he sees as a deep-down good guy who made a mistake. The speech he gives to Bogie on his way to freedom is completely different. Raft’s little brother, William Holden, is barely recognizable as such at the tender and squeaky-voiced age of 21. The predictable happens to Raft. But the movie kept my attention the entire way. And who can play the devoted, suffering mother of an ex-con better than Flora Robson?

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’ll do another little capsule review. This movie isn’t good enough to put on the Bookshelf, proper. But it’s worth a mention: Dead Reckoning.

    Maybe the most irritating thing about this movie is the cheap Lauren Bacall knock-off. Not that Bacall is god’s gift to acting, but she had a believable presence. Lizabeth Scott just keeps me wishing for the real thing. They look a lot alike.

    Bogie gets caught up in looking for his old army buddy who mysteriously takes off and goes missing just before he was to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor. Bogie pursues him to his home town where he finds out that this missing friend was involved in an earlier murder. Bogie begins to unravel this somewhat complicated mystery from there.

    Morris Carnovsky is good as Martinelli who is the gangster owner of a gambling joint. There’s no reason you couldn’t enjoy this movie on the same level as The Maltese Falcon. It’s Bogie unraveling a mystery and putting himself in great danger (including with the broads as well) as he does so. Had Bacall or Bette Davis played the broad, and the script been tightened up here and there (if only to insert some originality), this might have been a true classic. As it is, it’s a nice wander through Old Movieville.

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