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Frank's Movie Log

My life at the movies.

They Drive by Night

1940 | United States | 95 min | More...
A still from They Drive by Night (1940)
C+: 3 stars (out of 5)
on Tue Oct 04, 2022

George Raft and Humphrey Bogart play brothers trying to get ahead as independent truckers. An accident forces them to go to work for Ida Lupino’s husband, whom Raft soon stands accused of murdering.

The first half shines. We follow Raft and Bogart’s life on the road through a series of stopovers in greasy-spoon truck stops. There, they exchange news over gulped cups of coffee with other colorful drivers.

One such stop sees Ann Sheridan behind the counter, slinging hash and fending off passes from the patrons. She and Raft connect, and when the brothers spot her hitchhiking later that evening, they give her a lift.

Sheridan dazzles with a wholesome-but-not-naïve charm that makes Raft’s hard fall and resolute devotion not just plausible, but relatable.

From this promising intro, the film transitions into a remake of Bordertown. It stumbles along the way with some ill-conceived attempts at comedy. Alan Hale, who plays Lupino’s bumbling husband, can’t work the office intercom. The film paints him so inept, one wonders how he built a successful business.

Things continue downhill. Bogart disappears and Lupino assumes the co-lead. She’s a capable actress, as High Sierra would prove, but her performance here proves too emotive.

When confronted with an automatic door, she screws up her face and cranks her performance to eleven. In the climatic courtroom sequence, she devolves into cackling maniacal laughter. After such an organic opening, falling back to the hysterical woman trope disappointed. Compounding matters, the closing shot sees Sheridan, Bogart and company winking at the camera.

Viewing History

    Watched on
    Tue Oct 04, 2022 via Watch TCM
    Watched on
    Mon Apr 09, 2012 via TCM HD