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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 <email@example.com>
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 »
When Joe is sitting in Ed's office Lana sits with her arms folded. An instant later she is taking a puff from her cigarette. Is is the same scene when Ed lights his cigarette twice. See more »
Some day you road skinners will be sayin', "Joe Fabrini's a good guy to work for." And I will be.
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In a story about the over-the-road trucking business, two wildcat truckers, named Joe (George Raft) and Paul (Humphrey Bogart) haul apples, pears, and lemons, enduring hardship and erratic wages. Joe and Paul are the brothers Fabrini, and they dream of being independent from the big boss man.
A Depression-era story set in California, "They Drive By Night" taps into the theme of hard-working Americans who can't make a decent wage, as a result of greedy corporations. In a roadside diner, Paul expresses their frustration: "Hey, why do we stay in this racket? We aren't going to make enough out of it to buy ourselves decent coffins". But Joe and Paul are tough dudes, and they're honest. And they've got their dames, waiting either at home or in their dreams.
The film's plot starts out okay with lots of highway action. But the midpoint plot turn sends the film hurling in an unfortunate direction. Enter Lana Carlsen (Ida Lupino), the irritatingly angry wife of a wealthy and irritatingly jovial corporate boss. The film's first and second halves are like two completely different films, each with a different focus, different tone, different style. The first half is gritty and noir-based. The second half is perfunctory.
The script is very talky. The best dialogue comes near the beginning when Ann Sheridan, playing a cynical waitress, tosses some really good zingers.
Characters are mildly interesting, except for the dreadful Lana Carlsen, whom I didn't like at all. Sue Carter (Joyce Compton) offers minor comic relief. And Ann Sheridan is a delight to watch.
Production design ranges from dirty and gritty in the first half to elegant and snazzy in the second. Those trucks the guys drive look like something out of "The Grapes Of Wrath" (1940). B&W cinematography is pleasantly dark in the first half, routine in the second.
The story's theme is appropriate for the era in which the film was made. But the plot is terribly bifocal. The viewer almost gets two films for the price of one.
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