Monday, March 13, 2006

They Drive By Night

Last night we watched They Drive By Night, an old-time trucker movie from 1940 directed by Raoul Walsh. I am rarely disappointed by noir classics, and this was no exception. I gave it five stars at Netflix, though someone less enamored with the genre might give it four. George Raft and Humphrey Bogart are brothers trying to make it in the cut-throat trucking business. They meet waitress Ann Sheridan at a roadside diner (great scene with salty, uh, pre-feminist dialogue) and cross her path again on the road. Ida Lupino turns up a bit later, and she has a past with Raft's character. The action includes accidents ranging from surprisingly minor (the first, where the truck slams into a tree and needs only a new wheel) to utterly horrific. I suppose the ending is predictable, but there are some great twists getting there. And Lupino's final scene is unforgettable.

DVD special features: The documentary about the movie is brief but excellent. The Swingtime in the Movies short is pretty goofy, although there are amusing cameos. Don't miss the doc, but you can skip Swingtime (not to be confused with Swing Time starring Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, of course). The theatrical trailer is also included, but I don't care much for trailers (they usually just spoil the movie by giving away the best parts).

Bogart is only billed fourth -- this was before he became a big star. The accompanying documentary points out that Bogart had been making movies regularly for ten years and was getting frustrated. Indeed, his character in They Drive By Night fades into the background. He was on the cusp of greatness, however. The next year he starred in High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon followed by Casablanca, becoming a Hollywood legend.

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