Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… They Live By Night (1948)

Time to round out the month of “Noirvember” with one last regular review, the 1948 movie They Live By Night, starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell.

To start with, we follow three recently escaped convicts: Bowie (Farley Granger), Chickamaw (Howard Da Silva) and T-Dub (Jay C. Flippen).  They arrive at the home of Chichamaw’s drunk brother and his daughter Keechie (Cathy O’Donnell), where they make plans to rob a bank.  The robbery goes off without a hitch, and they all split the money.  Both Bowie and Chickamaw buy a car, but Bowie ends up in a car crash.  The policeman at the crash insists that they should come with him, so Chickamaw shoots him with Bowie’s gun.  Since Bowie was badly injured in the crash, Chickamaw leaves at his brother’s.  Since Bowie and Keechie were developing feelings for each other, when Bowie is feeling well enough, they run off together and get married, and try to keep hidden.

Now, depending upon how you want to look at it, this may or may not qualify as a Christmas movie.  Part of the movie takes place at Christmastime.  That section starts out happy, only for things to go downhill, with Bowie being recruited (against his will) by Chickamaw and T-Dub to rob another place, this time with bad results.  Again, this is only a brief part of the movie, and unless you consider movies with moments taking place at the time of year to fit the holiday, this one probably shouldn’t be counted (of course, that’s just my opinion).

There are many important points on this movies.  It was the first film directed by Nicholas Ray, who would be best know for directing the classic Rebel Without A Cause.  The opening scene (apparently, the first scene ever directed by Nicholas Ray), was the first action scene shot from a helicopter.  The movie is one of several movies that preceded the classic Bonnie And Clyde that was about an outlaw couple on the run.  The movie itself was delayed by Howard Hughes, as he had recently purchased RKO studios, who made the movie.  It was released into theatres when Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell were paired together for the movie Side Street for a rival studio, and Howard Hughes tried to beat that movie’s release.  It was based on the novel Thieves Like Us by Edward Anderson, and one can certainly see the thought of that title throughout the movie.

This is a movie that I enjoyed, and I would recommend it for those enjoy film noir!  The movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection, and is about one hour, thirty-six minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

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