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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.