Saturday, May 28, 2011
Joyce in They Drive By Night (1940)
Melodramatic intrigue meets down 'n dirty truck driving in director Raoul Walsh's They Drive By Night, a typically energetic Warner Bros. production from 1940. The film follows truckers George Raft and Humphrey Bogart as they deal with punishing hours and low pay hauling produce on all-night drives. Ann Sheridan adds a salty cynicism as the waitress whom Raft takes a shine to. Although enjoyable, this is truly a movie with a split personality. It begins as a gritty working-class melodrama of the type Warners did so well, but then the latter half veers into overheated murder mystery with the arrival of Ida Lupino as the scheming wife of the trucking company boss (Alan Hale). Lupino's big courtroom scene is campy beyond belief, but it only detracts slightly from what is an exciting corker of a movie.
Joyce Compton appears in They Drive By Night's second half as the ditsy girlfriend of Raft and Bogart's fellow driver, played by Roscoe Ates (when Ates declares that she's worth a million bucks, she replies "and just as hard to get."). She's appealing as ever and holds her own against her more famous co-stars in a role that is strangely unbilled, despite its decent size. The following year, Raoul Walsh, George Raft and Alan Hale would re-team on another gritty Warners melodrama, Manpower — with a certain cute "dumb blonde" actress also participating.
They Drive By Night was given a nice DVD treatment by Warner Home Video in 2003 with a new "making of" featurette and a vintage Warner Bros. short called Swingtime in the Movies added as extras. Buy at Amazon.com here.