Saturday, February 25, 2017

Jeff's #100: They Drive By Night

#100: They Drive by Night (Raoul Walsh, 1940)

I probably saw it for the first time five years or so ago on TCM and have seen it twice since.  It's that type of film that grows higher in my esteem every time I see it.  It's got an amazing cast (Bogie, George Raft, Ida Lupino, Ann Sheridan, and the indispensable Alan Hale), but the real star here is Raoul Walsh.  Easily in my top 5 greatest Hollywood directors of all time.  The dude lived and breathed cinema, having been involved in its development since the days of D.W. Griffith.  He had this amazingly lean, economical style: nothing ostentatious as shots aren't wasted, the dialogue is sharp, actors are charming, and the entertainment flows easily.  TDBN is one of his best representations of that style.  And along with two of his other masterpieces in HIGH SIERRA and THE ROARING TWENTIES, TDBN is one of the essential "bridge" films between the Warner Bros' social realism of the 1930s and the hard-boiled film noir of the 1940s.  It has elements of both eras, which makes it a remarkable historical document.  It forebodes of doom and emerges scarred from Depression-era tragedy, but it ultimately rejects the fatalism of post-war noir in favor of a newfound hope for rebirth.  Its sense of optimism in the face of calamity is one of its most appealing historical and emotional characteristics.  If it were made in 1947 no one would make it out alive.

Stats: First of two Walsh films on here (hard to exclude many of them) and first of several Humphrey Bogart appearances on this list.


  1. I'm ashamed that I have not seen this. I'm pretty sure I will love it.

    I do have a Walsh film on my list, maybe an unexpected one.

  2. Haven't seen this either. Adding it to my list of movies to watch.

  3. Three Haiku Inspired by They Drive by Night


    Sheridan's headlights

    Blind Raft to Lupino's charm

    I'd'a chose Ida


    Bogie lost an arm

    Completely irrelevant

    Plot moves on, its loss


    Hale and hearty boss

    Drinking and kissing his bride

    Carbon Monoxide

  4. My meaningless star rating: 3.5/5

    It's impossible not to like any film with this cast, but the film is a bit of a mess, with a broad tonal shift midway accompanying an abandonment of certain themes and characters in favor of new themes and characters. But it's all enjoyable enough and I'd happily watch it again any time.