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Before Bogey was a legend
on 10 April 2007
It was a pleasure seeing Ida Lupino in this, her first significant role at age 22. She is sexy, pretty and more than a bit nasty. Sometimes dubbed "the poor man's Bette Davis" she shows here that she could have handled some of Davis's roles very well.
The story itself is a tale about truck drivers that pits them against the loan sharks and emphasizes the danger of driving without much sleep on roads not yet of Interstate quality. It takes place in California in the late thirties. Lupino plays Lana Carlsen, the bored wife of the head of a trucking company who only has eyes for Joe Fabrini (George Raft), who only has eyes for Cassie Hartley (Ann Sheridan). Humphrey Bogart plays his brother Paul Fabrini and really takes a backseat. That would change beginning the next year when Bogey would star with Ida Lupino in High Sierra (1941).
It is interesting to contrast the two films both directed by long time Hollywood legend Raoul Walsh. They Drive by Night has a distinct thirties feel to it and not just because George Raft stars. The sense of the Depression is still with the characters in TDBN as the truck drivers and waitress Cassie worry about their jobs. There is a sense of identification with the working man that is absent from High Sierra, which really began Bogart's tough guy movie persona.
Alan Hale (235 acting credits at IMDb!) plays Lana's fun-loving and clueless husband, Ed Carlsen. Roscoe Karns provides some wise-cracking relief as Irish McGurn, truck-driving pinball wizard. The script by Jerry Wald is full of snappy one liners like this between Joe and Cassie. He asks, "Do you believe in love at first sight?" She counters with, "It saves a lot of time." Wald later became a producer of some of Hollywood's most memorable flicks including Pride of the Yankees (1945), Mildred Pierce (1945), Key Largo (1948), The Glass Menagerie (1950), etc.
By all means see this for Ida Lupino, who to escape from the typecasting that began with this movie later went on to become one of Hollywood's first woman directors.