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Edward G. Robinson,
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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>
George Raft and Humphrey Bogart are the truck driving Fabrini Brothers, a pair of owner/operators who when their truck is totaled in a bad wreck go to work for goodhearted Alan Hale who owns a trucking company. Hale's a decent sort, but kind of crude and that grates on his pretty wife Ida Lupino. She's got an eye on Raft. But Raft likes earthy, sexy Ann Sheridan.
They Drive By Night from the working class studio of Warner Brothers is one of the earliest examples of sexual harassment shown on screen. Ida will do anything to possess Raft even kill for it.
The film really belongs to the women here. Ann Sheridan and Ida really do dominate this film, especially Ida with an over the top performance of a woman driven mad by her obsession.
Back in the day it was the habit of studios to make sure they had lots of backup in their roster. Bette Davis was legendarily feuding with Jack Warner for better roles and she had staged a well publicized walk out on her contract. I have no doubt that this film was to build up Ida Lupino as a Davis alternative. The part Lupino does play has Davis written all over it.
My guess is that Davis would not have wanted to appear opposite George Raft any more than opposite Errol Flynn. So the part went to Lupino who recognized a good role and ran away with it.
Humphrey Bogart is totally wasted in the brother part. He loses an arm in the wreck and has little to do, but be supportive to his brother and resist taking charity. He and Lupino would both boost their careers in their next film High Sierra.
For those who like to see people crack up on screen, They Drive By Night is the film for you.
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