A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.
In the '40s, three prisoners flee from a state prison farm in Mississippi. Among them is 23-years-young Bowie, who spent the last seven years in prison and now hopes to be able to prove his innocence or retire to a home in the mountains and live in peace together with his new love, Keechie. But his criminal companions persuade him to participate in several heists, and soon the police believe him to be their leader and go after "Bowie the Kid" harder than ever.Written by
Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>
Nicholas Ray is mostly known for his work, "Rebel WIthout a Cause", but his first work, a dazzling, moving (if sentimental) film noir, is far better. Unjustly out-of-print, "They Live By Night" may have its minor flaws, but the stark, beautiful camerawork, stolid dialogue and (perhaps above all) exquisite performances make up for it. It has none of the often phony emotions and annoying characters that are found in "Rebel Without a Cause."
Bowie, the innocent, sympathetic outlaw hero of "They Live By Night" is a wonderfully drawn. By no means is he the cliched nice-guy-in-a-bad-situation; though essentially good-hearted, he can be frighteningly callous at times. Farley Granger, working with excellent direction, he gives us glimpses of a violent yet passionate nature, struggling against the condemnation of society. Cathy O'Donnell is also entrancingly tender, yet we can vaguely see that her character is trapped in a hopeless relationship with Bowie. She is also sadly obscure, which plainly has nothing to do with her talent.
The one significant fault of this film is over-restraint. At times, Ray's understated direction can be extremely effective, such as when he is dealing with violence. But at other times the characters' (and especially Keechie's) emotions are so tightly controlled that some of the impact on the audience is lost. Still, despite a few faults, "They Live By Night" is a wonderful film, and if ever you can find it, sell your hair but GET IT!!!
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