Thursday, 13 March 2014
They Drive By Night (1940)
This film is notable for being the last before Humphrey Bogart made his ascent to leading man status. Here he's still playing second fiddle, in this case to George Raft. Raft would ironically turn down the two roles - in High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon - that would launch Bogart's star, and his own career would never truly reach the heights it had before this film.
They Drive By Night also netted a studio contract for Ida Lupino, due to the strength of her performance. She would go on to be something of a pioneer among women film-makers, making the film a watershed in three separate and notable careers. Which is pretty cool for what is ultimately a fairly low key film about the long haul trucking business. I mean sure, there's a femme fatale (Lupino), a fistfight, and a murder to spice things up, but it's also a movie where people are excited about 'federal tax contracts'.
Low-key though it is, it's not dull. There's saucy dialogue with the love interest (not Lupino), loan sharks, comedic spots, and the aforementioned murder, after all. There's also a lot of really solid acting, which never hurts a film. Joe and Paul (Raft and Bogart) are brothers who run a freelance trucking business. They're struggling to make a living, spending day after day on the road, and just when they finally seem to be turning things around, disaster strikes. Paul is injured, while Joe is forced to give up his cherished independence to work for a pay cheque. Opportunity - albeit with some strings attached - might be just around the corner, however.
With the exception of an early scene between Joe and his love interest, where he's a little too pushy for me to feel entirely comfortable, this was an enjoyable flick. Worth a look if you're in the mood for a quieter piece of entertainment.