23 February 2011 | hitchcockthelegend
Early to rise and early to bed, makes a man healthy, but socially dead.
They Drive by Night (AKA: The Road to Frisco) is directed by Raoul Walsh and adapted by Jerry Wald & Richard Macaulay from the novel "The Long Haul" written by A. I. Bezzerides. It stars George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart. Adolph Deutsch scores the music and Arthur Edeson is the cinematographer. Plot finds Raft & Bogart playing the Fabrini brothers, two guys trying to make a living as truck drivers during the Depression era. Just about keeping afloat in a very competitive market, the boys find that they have to work longer hours to stay ahead in the game. But that brings fatigue and danger, and with the repo men after them they could do with a break; a break that comes by way of work for Ed Carlson (Alan Hale). But the fortune is short lived as trouble awaits, not only on the road, but also in the form of Carlson's wife, Lana (Lupino).
Warner Brothers produce a film of two differing halves that blends social realism with film noir edges. The script is tight as the narrative firstly deals in an adventure with period detail, then shifts to drama as bad luck and a bad woman come into play. There's zippy dialogue to digest, too, while Walsh keeps the pace brisk and provides good attention to detail in relation to the subject of the trucking industry. With Bogart a year away from leading man status (High Sierra/The Maltese Falcon), he was fourth billed for this movie. He gets relegated to the sidelines for the second half of the piece but by then he had made his mark. Sheridan is effective, in what ultimately is a love interest role, while Raft dominates as the centre piece character. But it's Lupino's movie all the way. True enough to say that her pivotal scene has a touch of the over theatrical histrionics about it, but it works in context to how she had formed the character up to then. Playing it man hungry and vixen like; yet with a sternness that oozes business woman sensibilities, her performance earned her a studio contract.
Two movies for the price of one, then, and nary a dull moment in either of them. 7.5/10