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They Drive by Night (1940)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  3 August 1940 (USA)
7.3
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 5,042 users  
Reviews: 61 user | 38 critic

Two brothers struggle as wildcat truck drivers; one comes to harm, the other is accused of his friend's murder.

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(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Title: They Drive by Night (1940)

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
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Gale Page ...
...
...
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Harry McNamara
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George Rondolos
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Storyline

Brothers Paul and Joe Fabrini run a trucking business in California mainly shipping fruit from farms to the markets in Los Angeles. They struggle to make ends meet in the face of corrupt businessmen and intense competition. They are forced into driving long hours and one night pick-up waitress Cassie Hartley who's just quit her job at a truck stop. The three of them witness the death of a mutual acquaintance when he falls asleep at the wheel. This has a profound effect on Paul and Joe and they become determined to find a way to make the business pay so they can quit. Written by Col Needham <col@imdb.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

NO PICTURE IN 1940 WILL HAVE BIGGER THRILLS (original one-sheet poster) See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

3 August 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

De färdas om natten  »

Box Office

Budget:

$400,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The wife of producer Mark Hellinger, Gladys Glad, a former showgirl for Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., was responsible for getting this film made. Hellinger had brought home a large stack of scripts that he was to read for filming consideration. He had leafed through the script and read the summary, but felt that "nobody would pay money to see a bunch of truck drivers". His wife read this script, liked it and pressured Hellinger to read it. Reluctantly, he did, the film eventually got made and became the sleeper hit of the year for Warners. It was made for an estimated $400,000 and grossed more than $4,000,000. (Source: Book "The Mark Hellinger Story" by Jim Bishop, New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1952) See more »

Goofs

As Paul and Pearl are talking in their living room and he says, "We'll have so many kids we'll run out of names", a stagehand can be seen walking past the living room window. See more »

Quotes

Cassie Hartley: I'll pay you back.
Joe Fabrini: Yeah, I'm real worried about that. I've got it all doped out with the cops if you don't
See more »

Connections

Featured in Humphrey Bogart: Behind the Legend (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Devil May Care
(1940) (uncredited)
Music by Harry Warren
Played when Joe is leaving the party
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Terrific melodrama about wildcat truck drivers that ill-advisedly introduces a murder plot in the second half
26 April 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Five years ago I wrote a snotty IMDb review for this movie after seeing it at a local theater. Now I just saw it again on DVD and wonder what the hell I was thinking. First, it's terrific. Second, I got what was good and bad about it exactly wrong.

Joe and Paul Fabrini (George Raft and Humphrey Bogart) are two wildcat truck drivers struggling to stay one step ahead of their creditors. Their job requires long hours on the road and prevents them from getting enough sleep. Paul's wife (Gale Page, who gives the only colorless performance in the film) worries she's going to find herself a widow someday and for good reason. Joe, Paul and a hardboiled waitress (Ann Sheridan) they pick up hitchhiking are witness to just how dangerous the business is. They watch in horror when the driver of the truck ahead of them falls asleep and runs off the road; both men inside die in a fiery explosion. It proves to be a glimpse of Joe and Paul's future when they wind up in their own accident.

That leads Joe to go to work for an old friend, who now runs his own trucking business. Ed Carlsen (Alan Hale, in a splendidly boisterous performance) is rich and successful, but he's still a regular fellow and hasn't lost the vulgar manners of his class. This annoys his wife Lana (Ida Lupino) to no end. She's clearly nouveau riche herself, but wants to rise above the low-class antics of her husband. And she's in love with Joe, who wants nothing to do with her. This drives her to commit murder.

That's when the movie changes coarse and for the worse. But five years ago I preferred the second half of the movie to the first. I guess I just have a weakness for murder stories, but the movie is clearly better before it becomes one. The murder sequence itself is packed with drama, but this plot twist sends the movie spiraling down until it reaches the tedious courtroom montage, which climaxes with Ida Lupino, who has been terrific up until this point, having a campy nervous breakdown on the stand. ("The doors made me do it! The doors made me do it!") And the less said about the phony feel-good last scene (where Bogart winks into the camera) the better.

Raft is fine in the lead, but modern-day viewers will almost surely wish that he and Bogart had each other's parts. Bogart was still a year away from graduating to leading man status. He's fine in this supporting role, but it's a shame the movie neglects his sympathetic character during the second half.

I half-liked Roscoe Karns as a pinball fanatic. He's funny when he seems to be only a walk-on character, but he overplays his later scenes as a comic drunk. Best of all is Ann Sheridan, who delivers her lines like she's cracking ice. She's tough but softens once she falls in love. The movie never should have thrown her out of the spotlight and put Ida Lupino's character in her place. She was – and should have continued to be – the heart of the movie.


14 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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they drive by night colorized waggsmom
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