They Drive By Night

Film - Feature | January 13 | 8 p.m. |  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

 Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Raoul Walsh’s atmospheric, realistic depiction of the long haul to livelihood in the Great Depression features Humphrey Bogart and George Raft as two brothers keeping just this side of the white line trying to save an independent trucking business from the hands of anxious creditors. Paid by the load, they go without sleep (and without insurance), stopping only at cafes and watching helplessly as their less hearty comrades succumb to sleep and crash. The cinematography and the acting (George Raft is especially sympathetic) combine to make the first half of the film compelling social realism; like the great American road movie it is, They Drive by Night draws us right along into the trek. Ida Lupino enters the scene as the wife of a trucking company owner with whom Raft takes a job, and dominates the rest of the film, which turns from social drama to melo-murder-drama. But if the best thing about They Drive by Night is the gripping first half, certainly the second-best thing is Ida Lupino going berserk on the witness stand at the film’s end. In his autobiography, Walsh wrote, “Ida Lupino walked off with the picture. Her scene in the courtroom . . . made her a star overnight.”

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