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Raoul Walsh's action melodrama of long distance truckers follows the edge-of-the-seat travails of the Fabrini brothers Joe (George Raft) and Paul (HumphreyBogart). These "wild catters" drive perilous roads and take enormous chances,all in the hopes of one day owning their own truck and going independent.When Joe is hired on by an ex-trucker turned entrepreneur, Ed J. Carlsen(Alan Hale), to oversee his massive trucking business, all the Fabrinis'problems appear to be over. In fact, they've only just begun. For years, Ed'swife Lana (Ida Lupino) has been carrying a torch for Joe, and Lana is not thekind of woman who takes "no" for an answer. Caught in a typical black widowdouble bind, Lana can't let go of Ed's substantial wealth, but can't have Joeas long as she's married to Ed. The only solution...murder, of course.
George Raft was instrumental in recommending Lupino for the part of Lana andher brilliant rendition of the jealousy-deranged, glamorous wife decked in aking's ransom of jewels and furs turned out to be her first important filmrole. Raft also had a hand in helping Bogart's career take off. ThoughBogart played a secondary role in They Drive By Night (1940) as the hangdog marriedbrother to Raft's savvy lady killer, that understated role would soon lead tohigher profile work. Raft, who didn't want to die in another picture, passed on the starring role in Walsh's next picture, High Sierra (1941), and instead, recommended Bogart for the film -- a part that made Bogie into amajor star.
As memorable for its fast-paced, realist introduction to life on the truckingcircuit as it is for its later descent into murder-thriller mode, Walsh's roadmovie manages to combine hairpin action, crackling hardboiled dialogueand charismatic performances from Lupino, Bogart and Raft.
Raft "trained" for his career playing gangster and petty criminal roles infilms like Scarface (1932) as a kid growing up on the mean streets of NewYork's Hell's Kitchen and then as a crime-connected hoodlum. His backgroundas a rum-runner came in especially handy when an accident on the set ofThey Drive By Night required the actor to use his bootlegger driving skills todeal with failed brakes on one of the trucks being used to shoot a drivingscene with Raft's on-screen love interest Ann Sheridan and Bogart on board.
The characteristic Warner Brothers realism is apparent in the early truckdriving scenes which establish the Fabrini brothers' world of long distancewild-catting with its trucker camaraderie, crowded truck stop diners, gruelingschedules and corrupt bosses. A loose remake of another thriller, Bordertown (1935), starring Bette Davis as the murderous wife, They Drive By Night is considered one of the best films in director Raoul Walsh's canon.Its two-fisted action and snappy dialogue is a wonderful combination ofthe gritty Warner Brothers "working man" film style and Walsh's own talentfor crafting instinctive, suspenseful thrillers, while still demonstrating a raresympathy for the difficulties of his working class characters.
Director: Raoul Walsh
Producer: Mark Hellinger, Hal B. Wallis (executive)
Screenplay: Jerry Wald, Richard Macauley, based on the novel 'Long Haul' by A.I. Bezzerides
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Editor: Thomas Richards
Art Direction: John Hughes
Music: Adolph Deutsch
Cast: George Raft (Joe Fabrini), Ann Sheridan (Cassie Hartley), Ida Lupino (Lana Carlsen), Humphrey Bogart (Paul Fabrini), Gale Page (Pearl Fabrini)
BW-96m. Close captioning.
by Felicia Feaster