I really enjoy Richard Carlson and his work in '40s "B" movies, so I was very glad to have the chance to see him in HIGHWAYS BY NIGHT (1942), which has been on my wish list for some time.
HIGHWAYS BY NIGHT was a fast-moving, very entertaining little movie in which Carlson plays sheltered millionaire Tommy Van Steel, an engineering genius who never uses a short word when a long one will do.
Tommy's Uncle Ben (Ray Collins, seen earlier this week in HOMECOMING) is concerned that Tommy needs to be able to cope in the "real world," especially as Tommy plans to join the navy in the near future. Ben encourages Tommy to go off on his own for a while and get a job without using the Van Steel name.
CAT PEOPLE) and her brother Footsy (Gordon Jones), who run a trucking business which is being pressed for payoffs by the gangsters.
Tommy goes into business with Peggy and Footsy, heading toward an inevitable confrontation with the gangsters.
The movie is carried along on Carlson's charm; he's on screen for most of the film's 65 minutes and is quite delightful as the initially oblivious rich genius who discovers he has fun getting out into the world and wheeling and dealing.
Tommy also discovers he's no longer interested in Ellen (Renee Godfrey, wife of the film's director), the society girl who pushed him into an engagement; he quickly falls head over heels for Peggy.
Richard Carlson certainly made the rounds of the studios in the early '40s. He made HIGHWAYS BY NIGHT for RKO the same year he appeared in FLY-BY-NIGHT (1942) for Paramount and THE AFFAIRS OF MARTHA (1942) for MGM; the previous year his films included THE LITTLE FOXES (1941) for Goldwyn and HOLD THAT GHOST (1941) for Universal.
Charles Coleman plays Tommy's butler, with Jane Darwell as Peggy and Footsy's Granny, George Chandler as a gas station attendant, Cliff Clark as a policeman, and Iris Adrian as a chorus girl. Watch for David Bruce as a desk clerk.
HIGHWAYS BY NIGHT was directed by Peter Godfrey (CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT, THE GIRL FROM JONES BEACH). It was filmed in black and white by Robert De Grasse. The screenplay was based on the novel SILVER SPOON by Clarence Budington Kelland.
Hopefully this movie will show up on Turner Classic Movies at some point in the future, or perhaps it will have a release by the Warner Archive.