Wednesday, April 16th, 2008


Year: 1940

Director: Raoul Walsh

Starring: George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, Anne Sheridan, Ida Lupino

They just don’t make them like they used to.

While They Drive By Night is certainly not the first title that comes to mind when someone mentions Film Noir, it is, never the less, a great example of Film Noir. This atypical Film Noir features outstanding performances by some real screen legends, including George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and an unforgettable and classic performance by Ida Lupino who plays the cunning and obsessive Lana Carlsen.

The puzzling thing about this movie is that it isn’t easily pigeon-holed. While I referred to it as Film Noir, it certainly doesn’t fit into the most stereotypical conceptions of what Film Noir is. Most think of movies with tough bad guys, smooth talking P.I.’s, gun play, femme fatales, and plenty of fighting. While They Drive By Night touches on many of those elements, it is really more of a movie about the journey of a regular joe as he tries to do something with his life, something meaningful. It is about struggling through life’s difficulties, while trying to secure for yourself a little slice of the American dream.

This movie has it all really, even as I write what I feel it is I can’t help but feel that my description doesn’t do it justice.

It deals with brotherhood, friendship, the pursuit of happiness, lust, social classes, the depression, murder, business, the drama of the courtroom, insanity, jealousy and betrayal.

In criticism of the movie, it certainly could have been better paced. The first half, and maybe as much as the first two thirds dragged compared to the rest of the film. While the beginning portions of the film do help set the stage for the rest of the plot, it could have been handled better. More of Lupino’s despicable Lana Carlsen and less of the trucking business would have improved this movie.

However, I recommend it for any one who enjoys a good story, or for any one who loves classic films. This is definitely worth your time, just don’t expect Casablanca or Citizen Kane.

A important side note for Bogart fans, keep in mind, this is before his big successes. This is before High Sierra, Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, and Sabrina etc. Bogart spent plenty of time in the background before he became the poster child for some of the best years of Hollywood, and his role in They Drive By Night is one of those background roles. I couldn’t help but wish I could magically switch his role with George Raft who plays the lead. Not that I have anything against Raft, he too is one of those great Hollywood actors, it is just hard to compete with good ol’ Bogart.

By: Greg Dickson

Year: 1932

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Starring: Herbert Marshall, Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Charles Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton, C. Aubrey Smith

Lubitsch was a brilliant director who had a way with stylish, sophisticated, sexy comedies. His films were living, breathing innuendos, winking to the audience slyly. He did his best work with this type of film during the pre-code era where he had more freedom. His most high class and lush comedy of the era is Trouble In Paradise, a clever story about thieves in love.

The most important thing to note about Lubitsch’s films is that the sexuality is mature. Unlike so many films about sex today, the story and characters are sexy because they’re sophisticated and behave with dignity, even when they’re lying and breaking the law. The think so highly of themselves, and even of each other, that everything they do, including sex, is done with respect. These people are adults, and it’s nice to see the subject handled in a mature and adult way.

Because Lubitsch was so sophisticated, his films had very littel physical or slapstick humor. The film is constantly funny, but the humor comes from the people, the situations, and the dialogue. Lubitsch could craft a film around words and dialogue like no one else could. He could make a sentence sound physical, and that kept the films from feeling too dull and ‘talky’.

And, of course, Lubitsch had a gift for picking a cast, and Trouble In Paradise has one of his best. The chemistry captured between the trio is strong and inimitable. Heading up the cast is the always classy Herbert Marshall as the master thief. He’s great with Kay Francis, the wealthy woman he romances with plans to rob, until he falls for her. But as great as Francis is with Marshall, his true match is Miriam Hopkins. Their class and unmatchable chemistry turn the thieves into a pefect duo in love and crime. Even though Francis is great, and her scenes with Marshall are excellent, when you see him with Miriam Hopkins you know that Francis doesn’t have a chance.

While the films certainly deals with themes of sex and attraction, in the end it’s about companionship and love. Francis is just a lonely woman looking for companionship, and even though she’s charming, sweet, and has all the money Marshall could ever want, his match, his soulmate, is Hopkins. Love can’t be bought, and Marshall and Hopkins realize that money isn’t worth risking their relationship, and they come to the conclusing that nothing is better than them together.

By: Katie Richardson