7.5/10
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They Live by Night (1948)

An escaped convict, injured during a robbery, falls in love with the woman who nurses him back to health, but their relationship seems doomed from the beginning.

Director:

Nicholas Ray

Writers:

Charles Schnee (screenplay), Nicholas Ray (adaptation) | 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Cathy O'Donnell ... Keechie
Farley Granger ... Bowie
Howard Da Silva ... Chickamaw
Jay C. Flippen ... T-Dub
Helen Craig Helen Craig ... Mattie
Will Wright ... Mobley
William Phipps ... Young Farmer
Ian Wolfe ... Hawkins
Harry Harvey ... Hagenheimer
Marie Bryant Marie Bryant ... Singer
Will Lee ... Jeweler
James Nolan ... Schreiber (as Jim Nolan)
Charles Meredith ... Comm. Hubbell
Teddy Infuhr Teddy Infuhr ... Alvin
Byron Foulger ... Lambert
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Storyline

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>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

"We're in a Jam!" See more »


Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

5 November 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Your Red Wagon See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$808,397 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

It is rumored that Nicholas Ray made Cathy O'Donnell work at a gas station for two weeks so that she would look convincing in her role. See more »

Goofs

Chicamaw's right eye is okay in a brief scene toward the end. Otherwise, the eye is opaque. See more »

Quotes

Chickamaw: Everybody and his dog is coming.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits: This boy . . . and this girl . . . were never properly introduced to the world we live in . . . To tell their story . . . See more »

Connections

Featured in Edge of Outside (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Jitterbugs
(uncredited)
Music by Roy Webb
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Wonderful Film in the Tradition of "Bonnie and Clyde"
17 May 2006 | by evanston_dadSee all my reviews

"They Live By Night" joins "Gun Crazy" (1949) and "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967) to form a little trilogy of remarkable films in the "lovers-on-the-lam" sub-genre. Nicholas Ray's film has much in common with "Gun Crazy," both in look and theme, but it's a much warmer and more emotionally effective piece of film-making. Peggy Cummins gave a fascinating performance in "Gun Crazy" as a flinty, unbelievably callous femme fatale; Cathy O'Donnell in "They Live By Night" will break your heart.

Indeed, the acting is probably this film's greatest asset, and it enables what in all respects is a B movie to feel like an A one. Farley Granger and O'Donnell bring wonderful nuances to their roles, and they have a naturalistic style of acting that feels ahead of its time when compared to other films from the same period. Howard da Silva is also tremendous in the supporting role of Chickamaw, managing to create a grotesque character who nevertheless feels at home in the very human world created by Ray. And Helen Craig shines in a small but vital role as Mattie, who may be the most heartless character in the film.

At a time when America most likely just wanted to hurry up and get everything back to normal, how shocking that a film like this would emerge. The domestic contentment that Granger and O'Donnell establish for themselves is a sham; they know it and we know it. They're living on borrowed time, and the things that the average American strived for in a booming post-war climate--loving spouse, children, safe and secure home--exist in this film as taunting reminders of blessings this couple can never have.

And the ending---that could have been so sentimental and is instead in Ray's hands so spare and sad---just may well take your breath away.

Grade: A+


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