They Drive By Night Gets Warner Archive Blu-ray

Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and George Raft in They Drive by Night. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

They Drive By Night–starring Humphrey Bogart before leading-man stardom–was recently upgraded to Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection.

George Raft and Ann Sheridan may have received top billing but the film would be a pivotal moment in the careers of both Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino. Can you imagine Bogie being the fourth-billed actor in any movie?!? It’s unthinkable, right? And yet, this is exactly the case in the Warner Bros. adaptation of A. I. Bezzerides’ 1938 novel, Long Haul. It might not be as remembered as some of Bogie’s other movies but it’s a worthy title in the Warner Archive Collection.

But for all that we can say about Bogie, this film played a role in turning Raft’s persona away from gangster movies. At the same time, Bogie was tiring of playing the gangster character with films constantly killing him off before the ending. Could you blame him for wanting more? Meanwhile, Ida Lupino just needed to show off her stuff during the film’s courtroom scene. Bette Davis did not look at her as a threat at the time but Lupino hit it out of the ballpark. In just one scene, she would steal the film from her two male co-stars–never mind Ann Sheridan playing Raft’s love interest.

The gist of the film is that Joe (George Raft) and Paul Fabrini (Humphrey Bogart) are both brothers and independent truck drivers. In order to evade a loan shark, Joe convinces Paul that they should start a business. Joe finds himself attracted to a waitress, Cassie Hartley (Ann Sheridan), and coincidentally, she later ends up hitchhiking a ride as the brothers make their way to Los Angeles. The film has a way of pointing out the dangers of the business when another trucker falls asleep at the wheel. The brothers try to save him but unfortunately, he dies when his truck drives off the road. It’s a worry that Paul’s wife, Pearl (Gale Page), more or less shares. If she had her way, Paul would be in another business.

Once we get into the film’s back half, there’s major drama involving Lana Carlsen (Ida Lupino). Lana would rather have Joe for herself–her husband, Ed (Alan Hale), hires Joe at his trucking company. It’s enough that she ends up murdering her husband and frames Joe. Cue the aforementioned scene in the courtroom and history is made!

One thing to appreciate about the film is Raoul Walsh decided to film in chronological order. He also picked up on Bogart being upset during production. Interestingly enough, High Sierra was just around the corner and it would propel Bogie into stardom. Never again would he have to settle for bad parts. He certainly could have his own pick of the litter.

It’s a film that does not exactly fit into a genre check box. You get a mix of social drama and film noir. While drawing from the novel, they also recycle elements from the 1935 film, Bordertown, and places them into the film. You could call it a loose remake but it’s different from how Disney Animation would recycle animation in multiple films.

They Drive By Night is a two-films-in-one title and features fine direction from Walsh as he makes the best use of his actors.

Bonus Features

  • Lux Radio Theater Broadcast with George Raft and Lana Turner (6/2/41)
  • Featurette: Divided Highway-The Story of They Drive By Night
  • Classic WB Short Swingtime in the Movies
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

DIRECTOR: Raoul Walsh
SCREENWRITERS: Jerry Wald and Richard Macaulay
CAST: George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino, Humphrey Bogart, with Gale Page, Alan Hale, Roscoe Karns, John Litel, George Tobias

Warner Bros. released They Drive By Night in theaters on August 3, 1940. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.