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A Call to Action: The Films of Raoul Walsh

Saturday, August 10, 2013
6:30 p.m. They Drive by Night
Raoul Walsh (U.S., 1940)

Walsh’s atmospheric, realistic depiction of the long haul to livelihood in the Great Depression features Humphrey Bogart and George Raft as two brothers keeping just this side of the white line trying to save an independent trucking business from the hands of anxious creditors. Paid by the load, they go without sleep (and without insurance), stopping only at cafes and watching helplessly as their less hearty comrades succumb to sleep and crash. The cinematography and the acting (George Raft is especially sympathetic) combine to make the first half of the film compelling social-realism; like the great American road movie it is, They Drive by Night draws us right along into the trek. Ida Lupino enters the scene as the wife of a trucking company owner with whom Raft takes a job, and dominates the rest of the film, which turns from social drama to melo-murder-drama. But if the best thing about They Drive by Night is the gripping first half, certainly the second best thing is Ida Lupino going berserk on the witness stand at the film’s end. In his autobiography, Walsh writes, “Raft and Bogart gave fine performances as truck drivers, but pretty, talented Ida Lupino walked off with the picture. Her scene in the courtroom...made her a star overnight.”

—Judy Bloch

• Written by Richard Macaulay, Jerry Wald, from the novel Long Haul by A.I. Bezzerides. Photographed by Arthur Edeson. With Ida Lupino, George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan. (93 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Warner Bros.)