Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

They Drive By Night


If this movie was a truck, it would be weaving back and forth across the yellow line, skidding on ice, doing a 180, and tipping over on 9 wheels as George Raft slept soundly back behind the cab. In other words, it’s all over the place.

It starts off well, being about independent truck drivers and the hardships they face. I was immediately struck by how much things have changed, and how much has remained the same. The trucks these guys are pushing are like Wright Brothers flyers compared to a 747. There are no seat belts, no doors, and there is Humphrey Bogart sleeping, leaning out toward the road. One big bump and he’s in the road. These days drivers tote luxury hotel rooms around behind the cab. But as far as pushing to meet a deadline, not getting enough sleep, guzzling gallons of coffee (or pills, these days; maybe then, too, but we don’t see that), seeing your wife and kids once or twice a month, it’s still the same old game.

Bogey gets fourth billing behind Raft, Ann Sheridan, and Ida Lupino, who is magnificent as the bad girl, until the wildly over-written and over-acted ending. Ann is the good girl Raft is in love with, Ida is the Fatal Attraction obsessive who for some reason is fixated on Raft. Now, what can you say about George Raft as an actor? Wooden? The man graduated with honors from the Howdy Doody school of acting. He never seems to be quite in the picture. Just looking at Bogey and Raft, you can see why Bogey’s star was rising and Raft’s was sinking. In a few years Bogey would be doing High Sierra and Casablanca, and Raft would be in B-pictures, where he belonged.

So instead of being a movie about two brothers trying to get ahead in a hard line of work, it turns into a murder mystery. Ida kills her husband (and I have to say I can’t blame her, he is one of the most obnoxious “life of the party” guys I’ve ever seen), and claims George forced her to. She’s willing to go to prison so long as she can send him there, too, so lovely and faithful Ann can’t get her hooks into him. It is laughable, but if you think that’s funny, stick around for the ending. One of the classic howlers.