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They Drive by Night (1940)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  3 August 1940 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 5,161 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.



(screen play), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Gale Page ...
Harry McNamara
George Rondolos


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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

3 August 1940 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

De färdas om natten  »

Box Office


$400,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


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 Fabrini first sits at Carlsen's desk, Carlsen strikes a match and lights it. Upon cutting to a different angle, Carlsen doesn't have a match in his hand, although it was flaming brightly prior to the edit. See more »


Cassie Hartley: Anything else?
Joe Fabrini: Yeah, but it ain't on the menu.
Cassie Hartley: And it ain't gunna be.
See more »


Featured in Hollywood: The Great Stars (1963) See more »


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

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User Reviews

The Long Haul
20 July 2002 | by (brighton, ma) – See all my reviews

This is the kind of movie that makes movie buffs movie buffs. On the surface the story is routine (I'm tempted to say hackneyed), the psychology shallow, the acting variable, and the meaning, such as it can be said to have one, borderline moronic. Yet it works like a charm, and is a minor classic of its kind. This is a tough movie to categorize. Not that one has to. It's a long haul trucker movie. But is that a genre? It has comedy and romance but is neither a comedy nor a romance; and it has tragedy but is not a tragedy. Near the end it turns into a murder story, though I wouldn't call it a crime picture. Director Raoul Walsh had a flair for subverting genres anyway, and made basically Raoul Walsh pictures, whatever the putative genre, and this one's about as Raoul Walsh as you can get.

It's the story of two brothers, played by George Raft and Humphrey Bogart, who are wildcat truckers who don't want to work for anyone else. They'd like to own their own rig but can't afford one, and are in debt up to their ears half the time. As the story progresses, Bogart loses in arm in an accident, and the boys have to go work for the boorish if amiable Alan Hale, whose wife, Ida Lupino, has eyes for Raft. Ann Sheridan is also on hand, as the hash-slinging good girl Raft really belongs with. Nothing special here, no great drama, and certainly no surprises. What drives the film, literally, is its optimism, especially as it relates to "little guys" Raft and Bogart. Without being too emphatic about it the movie is like a cheerleader for these two from start to finish.

The dialogue is salty and well-delivered by all, even the usually tedious Raft, while the background stuff,--the diners, rented rooms and garages--is beautifully detailed and always believable. Director Walsh was made for Warner Brothers, the studio that produced the film. He had a feeling for regular people, informal surroundings, the hustle and bustle of working life. Nor was he the least bit pretentious. The studio's famous liberalism didn't seem to rub off on him. He remained a populist with an anarchic streak, and was never an ideologue, hence this movie's depiction of blue collar life rings truer than most, as we know that these little guys want to be big shots (as most little guys do), and that they mean it when they say they want to give everyone a fair shake. We know in our guts that if these two ever make it to the big time they'll be awfully nice guys to work for. It's not easy for a movie to convince a viewer of such things,--it's not easy for a movie to be convincing at all, but this one is. Thanks to Raoul Walsh, with a little help from his fine cast.

32 of 40 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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