The California trucking industry provides the backdrop for a fascinating story of romance and murder. Joe (George Raft) and Paul Fabrini (Humphrey Bogart) are brothers trying to make a go of it as truckers, fighting lack of sleep, corrupt businessmen, and a truck repossessor. Things start looking up when Joe falls in love with a pretty truck stop waitress (Ann Sheridan) and later gets a good job with a growing trucking company. But the boss's wife (Ida Lupino) has her eye on Joe and will stop at nothing to have him.
The film starts out as a good example of Warner Bros.' films about working-class characters, then abruptly segues halfway through into a noirish tale of murder and madness. ("The doors made me do it!" is one of those lines you'll never forget.) Despite the movie's schizophrenic nature, it's a must-see, with crackling dialogue and a standout performance by Ida Lupino. She has a remarkable scene where her thoughts are entirely conveyed by the changing looks in her eyes, yet you can "see" every word she's thinking.
The supporting cast includes Gale Page (FOUR DAUGHTERS, DAUGHTERS COURAGEOUS) as Humphrey Bogart's patient wife. Alan Hale, Roscoe Karns, George Tobias, and Joyce Compton (SPRING MADNESS) round out the cast.
THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT was directed by the great Raoul Walsh, who later that same year directed Bogart and Lupino in the classic HIGH SIERRA.
The movie was filmed in black and white and runs 93-95 minutes. The murder story in the plot was borrowed from a Bette Davis movie called BORDERTOWN (1935). A good trailer can be seen here.
It can be seen on DVD in a single title release or as part of the Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection, Vol. 1. Extras include a featurette about the making of the film, as well as a short. It can also be seen on VHS. (I wonder if anyone else who's seen the movie thinks the VHS cover art is as odd as I do!)
THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT can also be seen on TCM, where it recently aired as part of this month's tribute to Ida Lupino.