They Drive by Night (1940) The Magnificent Fabrini Brothers

They Drive By Night (1940) poster movie Raoul Walsh Bogie Raft Lupino

Humphrey Bogart is back again hitting my screen in the wolf lair as the quest to work through his films carries on. This time HB was in supporting role mode in this 1940’s movie called They Drive By Night . Top billing duties went to George Raft who, lets be honest, sounds more like Humphrey than Bogie himself in this. These two native New Yorkers make very believable brothers. Let’s meet the Fabrini Brothers.

They Drive By Night (1940) Humphrey Bogart George Raft Fabrini Brothers

Joe (George Raft) is the driving force out the two, an ambitious tough guy determined to have his own truckers yard. His brother Paul (Humphrey Bogart) is married and happy to follow his brother with his dream. They are both poor, struggling to make ends meet. Joe’s taken a big down payment on a truck from weasel loan shark Farnsworth (Charles Halton). Now they have a start, they just gotta keep on trucking.

They Drive By Night (1940) Humphrey Bogart George Raft Fabrini Brothers driving truckThey Drive By Night (1940) Humphrey Bogart George Raft truck

Sharing driving duties, they race day and night through state lines, covering hundreds of miles with whatever load they can get. When one sleeps, the other drives. Coffee and the roadside cafe is a godsend and the waitress ain’t bad either. Flirting with Cassie Hartley (Ann Sheridan) and a big dose of caffeine to keep the motor running.

They Drive By Night (1940) Humphrey Bogart Ann Sheridan George Raft truckers pit stop

Joe Fabrini – It’s a classy chassis!
Cassie Hartley – You couldn’t even afford the headlights.
Cassie Hartley – Alright! That’s enough of the x-ray treatment!

The truckers pit-stop was the perfect place for all the drivers to unwind, drink oil fueled coffee, eat lard and grease whilst catching up on road stories. You get to spot William Bendix in the mix as an uncredited “Truck Driver Watching Pinball Game”. Playing the pinball machine and popping up throughout the film for some comedy and banter is Irish McGurn (Roscoe Karns). The issues of the dangers of driving long hours and the hard life of a trucker are addressed well and features some really hazardous situations. Keep those eyes wide and pried open at all times boys, this is one job you don’t wanna be cat napping on.

Joe Fabrini – If we go over a cliff, wake me up.

They Drive By Night (1940) dangerous of long haul truck driving falling asleep

Joe’s busts around for work, a quick punch up on the streets, bit more flirting, 40 winks, dodge the loan shark then visit a friend. This is where we get to meet the jolliest man in town, former trucker and now owner of a whole fleet of trucks, Ed Carlsen (Alan Hale). Ed is a party machine, any excuse to down a few bottles and roar with laughter. Ed might be a big businessmen but his heart is still one of the boys. All this joyful laughter is the bane of his wife, Lana (Ida Lupino) life. Though the sight of seeing Joe makes her eyes light up.

They Drive By Night (1940) Ida Lupino and Alan Hale

Tagline – No picture in 1940 will have bigger thrills!

That tagline above might not be true but I bet it’s close. I absolutely loved this film. It may of been the bottle of Canadian Club Whisky I was hitting hard. You know what I chuckling along, laughing out loud with Ed Carlsen, shouting at the screen when truckers were dozing off, hissing at naughty characters and gasping at shocking events. It’s a rollercoaster film which races along at breakneck speed. To be honest I don’t think it really knows what genre of movie it is supposed to be. Drama or film noir? Comedy? There’s thrills and romance, laughter and tears.  And another thing that really set this movie aside was you really cared for the characters. Those Magnificent Fabrini Brothers.

Wolfman Canadian Club Whisky on the rocks

A few things I learnt.

  • Directed by Raoul Walsh who would later join Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino together for his next film High Sierra in 1941. In my personal opinion They Drive By Night is the better film, certainly on entertainment.
  • It’s based on a 1938 novel called Long Haul by A I Bezzerides. He must of liked the truckers theme because he wrote another novel in 1949 called Thieves’ Market which was made into a fantastic film by Jules Dassin starring Richard Conte. The title was changed to Thieves’ Highway.

They Drive By Night (1940) Ann Sheridan George Raft flirting dating

  • I don’t really know George Raft apart from Some Like It Hot. I see he’s in the original 30’s gangster movie Scarface. Need to see that. Can you recommend any of his films please.
  • Staying on George Raft. I mention at the beginning that him and Bogie are very similar. Then I see there’s an interesting, almost surreal sounding movie from 1980 called The Man with Bogart’s Face? George isn’t the star but interesting he’s in it, incidentally it looks like it was his last film too. Anyone seen it?
  • One for the British readers maybe, I couldn’t help but think George Raft looked like the wonderful Reece Shearsmith from Inside No 9 and The League Of Gentlemen fame.
They Drive By Night (1940) A. E. French crowds queing around the corner photo Getty Images

Check this fantastic Getty Image by photographer A. E. French. The cinema line is going round the corner.

Thanks for having gander at me scribbles, feel free to comment your thoughts on the film below if wish. Was it just the whiskey that fueled my passion? Have you seen it, did you enjoy it as much as me? Mikey the Hairy One.

13 thoughts on “They Drive by Night (1940) The Magnificent Fabrini Brothers

  1. Some George Raft recommendations for you: Night After Night (opposite Mae West!), The Bowery, Bolero (showcasing his dancing skills), Limehouse Blues, The Glass Key (1935 version), Manpower (with Edward G. Robinson & Marlene Dietrich!), Johnny Angel, Nocturne, Intrigue, Johnny Allegro. That oughta keep you busy for a while, Mikey!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Gary you surely are the don. What a great list. Never heard of any of them. Yep haha that with certainly keep me busy for a while. Straight off the Night After Night sounds great. Will start there. Many thanks indeed. 🙂


  2. Very astute about what genre is this. It’s like two movies in one once Ida sets in on murder. I like Raft but time hasn’t been kind to him. He’s more famous for supposedly turning down everything that made Bogart an icon. High Sierra, Casablanca, Maltese falcon. Raft doesn’t have an iconic role. Check those previously mentioned . I’m big on Manpower and Each Dawn I Die.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh what a doofus on turning down those roles! Though Bogie had that extra something and those films might not of been what they are today. I did so love Raft in this They Drive By Night, I was rooting for him right from the get go. I will keep an extra look out for Manpower and Each Dawn I Die (what a title BTW!)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Haven’t seen this one, Mikey. I don’t know why I’ve passed it up. Sometimes I get a little overdosed on Bogart. Cool review though. You know George Raft was good friends with Bugsy Siegel. He was mobbed up like Sinatra.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved it Pam, hit all the right boxes for me. Though it could of been the whisky. Yep more than likely. Always good to have Ida on the screen. Did not know that about Raft and Bugsy. I guess the mobster and the stars had that fame thing they could both relate to. Plus helps when you drink in the same bars and need that extra buzz. Will go off for further reading. Sounds very interesting indeed. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I liked this one too, Mikey, and of course it starred Ann Sheridan, so there’s another reason for me to keep going back. I’d say this was probably my favorite early Raft role…I’m not really a fan of his (though I thought he did a great job in ‘Some Like It Hot’), but he did fine in this.

    And like Gary mentioned above, maybe check out ‘Nocturne’…not a bad little noir. And I seem to remember Bogie or Raft getting tough with someone in Ann’s diner in this one; either someone got fresh with Ann, or they hurt a cat or dog, or something. Am I close, or am I losing my mind?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha you might be losing your mind! LOL.. Not sure on the cat dog thing. Though my marbles are lost at the best of times… There was tongue in cheek interaction with the weasel like “loans” guy in the diner, maybe that was it. Lucky both our minds remember Ann Sheridan’s beauty and tbh that’s all that matters 🙂
      Will keep a lookout for Nocturne. Looking forward to getting back on the noir etc come Feb. I can’t really remember him in Some Like It Hot, though it has been a long time since I’ve seen it.


  5. The underrated Raft recommendation I give to everyone is The House Across the Bay — released in 1940 as well. A bit of a sappier take on the crime drama, but Raft and Joan Bennett are great in it!

    Liked by 1 person

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