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

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