Sunday, April 07, 2024

Tonight's Movie: They Drive By Night (1940) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The Warner Bros. drama THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940), directed by Raoul Walsh, has just been released on Blu-ray in the Warner Archive Collection.

I was surprised to realize I hadn't seen the movie since way back in 2007. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it via this pristine Blu-ray print.

This is quite an entertaining 95 minutes. It reminds me somewhat of HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937) insofar as it's several movies in one: Action drama, romance, murder and courtroom melodrama. Yet despite its shifts in tone, it all works.

George Raft and Humphrey Bogart plays brothers Joe and Paul Fabrini, who are struggling to make a living as independent truckers. Things seem to be looking up thanks to a helping hand from Ed Carlsen (Alan Hale Sr.), who owns a trucking business, but then misfortune strikes when they have an accident and not only lose their truck, but Paul loses an arm.

Joe goes to work for Carlsen, helping to support Paul and his wife Pearl (Gale Page) during Paul's recovery, but Carlsen's wife Lana (Ida Lupino) makes things difficult. Lana has her eyes on Joe, but Joe is engaged to Cassie (Ann Sheridan). Lana, however, won't take no for an answer...

This film was written by Jerry Wald and Richard Macaulay from novel by A.I. Bezzerides. I find it very enjoyable, thanks to their snappy script, with lines delivered by a great cast. Sheridan, in particular, has never been better than she is here as a wisecracking waitress with a soft heart.

This was the year before Bogart hit the big time in HIGH SIERRA (1941) and THE MALTESE FALCON (1941), and he's very sympathetic as a loving husband and perpetually tired truck driver; the latter issue leads to the tragic accident.

Raft has been an acquired taste for me, but I like him fine in this, and it's great to see Page, who was one of the sisters in the FOUR DAUGHTERS series. Her role is small but her appealing presence adds to the film.

The movie has the typically fine Warner Bros. supporting cast, also including familiar faces such as John Litel, John Ridgely, Roscoe Karns, George Tobias, Joyce Compton, Marie Blake, and Henry O'Neill.

The black and white cinematography was by Arthur Edeson, and I frequently marveled at how good the film looks on this Blu-ray. Sound quality is also excellent. I definitely recommend this disc.

Blu-ray extras include the trailer; the 11-minute featurette DIVIDED HIGHWAY: THE STORY OF THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (2003); a 20-minute short, SWINGTIME IN THE MOVIES (1938); and a 1941 Lux Radio Theater production with Raft and Lana Turner. The radio show was not included on the DVD released over 20 years ago and is a most welcome addition to the Blu-ray release.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from Movie Zyng, Amazon, and other online retailers.


Anonymous Barry Lane said...

I thought this an excellent film, especially Raft and Sheridan, but in Act Three when the trial takes place I turn off. Oh, and I do not care about the Lupino performance or character.

10:07 PM  

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