7.6/10
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They Live by Night (1948)

An escaped convict, injured during a robbery, falls in love with the woman who nurses him back to health, but their relationship seems doomed from the beginning.

Director:

Nicholas Ray

Writers:

Charles Schnee (screenplay), Nicholas Ray (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Cathy O'Donnell ... Keechie
Farley Granger ... Bowie
Howard Da Silva ... Chickamaw
Jay C. Flippen ... T-Dub
Helen Craig Helen Craig ... Mattie
Will Wright ... Mobley
William Phipps ... Young Farmer
Ian Wolfe ... Hawkins
Harry Harvey ... Hagenheimer
Marie Bryant Marie Bryant ... Singer
Will Lee ... Jeweler
James Nolan ... Schreiber (as Jim Nolan)
Charles Meredith ... Comm. Hubbell
Teddy Infuhr Teddy Infuhr ... Alvin
Byron Foulger ... Lambert
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Storyline

In the '40s, three prisoners flee from a state prison farm in Mississippi. Among them is 23-years-young Bowie, who spent the last seven years in prison and now hopes to be able to prove his innocence or retire to a home in the mountains and live in peace together with his new love, Keechie. But his criminal companions persuade him to participate in several heists, and soon the police believe him to be their leader and go after "Bowie the Kid" harder than ever. Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The headlines screamed their crime... but they told only half the story. Would YOU give these kids another chance? See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 November 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Your Red Wagon See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

According to Eddie Muller on TCM's Noir Alley (2017-10-15), Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell first appeared together in They Live by Night (1948), filmed at RKO Pictures in 1947 but put on the shelf by new studio boss Howard Hughes. Former RKO Production Chief Dore Schary feared the picture would never be released, so he paired the actors again in Side Street (1950) at his new studio, M-G-M. Hughes learned of this and, wanting to beat Schary to the punch, finally released "They Live by Night" in the USA in November 1949, just a few weeks before "Side Street" opened nationwide. See more »

Goofs

The new Cadillac is seen to be covered with a tarpaulin. When the camera swings back to it, the tarpaulin has vanished. See more »

Quotes

Chickamaw: Everybody and his dog is coming.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: This boy . . . and this girl . . . were never properly introduced to the world we live in . . . To tell their story . . . See more »

Connections

Featured in I'm a Stranger Here Myself (1975) See more »

Soundtracks

Your Red Wagon
by Richard M. Jones, Don Raye and Gene de Paul (as Gene DePaul)
Performed by Marie Bryant (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

 
a classic "B-noir" film with heart and style
13 May 2006 | by Quinoa1984See all my reviews

Nicholas Ray's first film is a fascinating, enveloping example of a filmmaker getting as much as he can out of so little. His film was made under the radar at RKO, despite having John Houseman as a producer. While also having a cast of really unknowns, he also uses it to his advantage to tell a small story very well. It's close to being one of the more 'text-book' examples, in the story's core, in the history of B-noir (film-noir that didn't get the hype of The Big Sleep or Out of the Past, star vehicles as much as unique thrillers). Bowie (Farley Granger, soon to be a Hitchcock stock-player) escapes from jail with the help of a couple of bank robbers who make him, as they say, "an investment." He meets a girl, Keechie (Cathy O'Donnell), daughter of a farmer they pass by, and he becomes friends with her, so to speak. She agrees to leave town with him and they also decide, almost on a whim, to get married (for twenty bucks no less). But soon, very soon, fall in love, however, despite the checkered and now notorious past catching up to Bowie.

Obviously, if you're looking for stellar, "method" acting, look elsewhere in the main performances. But they do have enough of a pull in their chemistry on screen- sometimes rough and spelling of their doomed relationship, other times tragically tender- to back up the best aspects to the film. The true pleasures in seeing They Live By Night are the details that Ray lays in the scenes, bits of life probably taken from the book the movie's based on. Godard once proclaimed that Ray "IS cinema". If this statement does hold validity to a degree, it shows for certain even in Ray's debut in the scenes with the secondary platers. Such as the wedding scene, or in general with the dialog in the script (i.e. "Between him and the chicken, I'd bet on the chicken", or "I'm the black sheep" "the only thing black about you are your eyelashes), or even with the strengths in Ray's camera as a simple storyteller. In a sense this cuts right to the chase with the theme of doomed youth, years before Rebel Without a Cause yet with the given desperation of the noir films.

While generally less seen than Ray's other films (though more attributable to being less available on video), it's likely one of his best; a powerful mix of the bittersweet tale of a criminal and his love that would decades later meld with other crime-film elements into a work like True Romance.


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