They Drive by Night

This 1940 feature begins as a fast, growly proletarian drama of an independent trucker (George Raft) fighting to build his business, but breaks midway and becomes a high bourgeois melodrama about an ambitious woman (Ida Lupino) on trial for killing her husband. The switch may not make sense on first viewing, but director Raoul Walsh brings a thematic (and rhythmic) continuity to it: the same obsessional intensity that makes Raft an admirable figure in the first half is seen in the second, applied to Lupino, as something psychotic. Walsh may not have been directly responsible for the structure (the second half is a remake of an earlier Warners melodrama, Bordertown), but his personal response to the material puts it across. With Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart, and Alan Hale. 93 min.

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