They Live by Night (1948) 1080p

Movie Poster
They Live by Night (1948) 1080p bluray - Movie Poster
Crime | Film-Noir
Frame Rate:
23.976 fps
English 2.0  
Run Time:
95 min
IMDB Rating:
7.5 / 10 
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Directors: Nicholas Ray [Director] ,

Movie Description:
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.


  • They Live by Night (1948) 1080p bluray - Movie Scene 1
  • They Live by Night (1948) 1080p bluray - Movie Scene 2
  • They Live by Night (1948) 1080p bluray - Movie Scene 1

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A masterpiece.

"They Live by Night" grabs you from the very first minute, with its strange and beautiful prologue. Some noir fans evidently find it jarring, a love story injected into a film noir. Why not? Other classic noirs do it. No noir is more noir than Jules Dassin's "Night and the City," and that certainly includes a tragic love. Nicholas Ray himself does it again with "On Dangerous Ground." There the love story is a story of redemption. Here it is a story of fatalism. The trick is to tell it without descending into the maudlin. No one did it better than Nicholas Ray. We know the lovers are misfits; they will come to grief. We never lose hope for them.

Ray had it easy with "On Dangerous Ground." He could count on two of the greats, Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino. Here he has to coax performances out of young actors. Farley Granger, in my opinion, gives his finest performance, far, far better than in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train." Hitchcock seldom cared about depth of character, as long as he could spin a clever plot. Character was the heart of Nicolas Ray's work. Think again of "On Dangerous Ground." Or take the searing, sexually charged love-hate between Emma and Vienna in "Johnny Guitar." He draws from Farley Granger a quality he never equaled. As for Cathy O'Donnell, what a waste that she seldom found roles commensurate with her talent. The supporting cast is marvelous. Howard da Silva begins as his usual type. Chichamaw is loathsome and sinister. He changes. His weaknesses, alcohol and vanity, make him almost sympathetic. Jay C. Flippen begins as his usual type, gruff but good-hearted. He changes, an inveterate criminal who won't let Bowie off the hook. Ian Wolfe, an actor's actor, makes Hawkins, the cynical, half-malevolent half-pitying marriage salesman memorable. (Nicholas Ray used him again in "On Dangerous Ground.") He peddles hope. But he won't sell hope where it's hopeless. Byron Foulger, true chameleon among character actors, does a great turn as Lambert the loquacious motel-keeper. His irritating cheeriness makes Bowie and Keechie's downfall yet more dismal when it arrives. Near the end Bowie returns to find Keechie sitting on the bed with water all over the floor while Lambert and the plumber bustle about, chatting, banging on pipes. I'm thinking he's thinking: "Go away, please. Please. My life's hanging by a thread. I don't need this now." It drives me crazy just watching it. Whoever put the broken-pipe scene in the script was a genius.

Bonnie and Clyde it's not. I keep reading that association. It's not even close. Bonnie is a criminal, a willing participant in Clyde's mayhem. Keechie is gentle. She implores Bowie to stop. If there's a parallel in film it's "High Sierra." Marie (Ida Lupino), though somewhat an accomplice, frantically clings to Roy (Humphrey Bogart), hoping to find peace. The final scene prefigures the end of "They Live by Night." I always considered Lupino's performance ("free, free") unmatched. I still do. Cathy O'Donnell ("I love you") comes close to matching it.

Finally, I can't help reflecting on the idea of "film gris," a film noir incorporating a progressive social message. This is one if there ever was one. Thieves Like Us was the title of the novel. Us is us - everyone. Everyone, Hawkins says, is a thief. Those at the top steal legally. Those at the bottom steal as they can, at war with the world. "They Live by Night" was released in 1949, after HUAC had commenced its inquisition. But it was made in 1947, before, in fact just before, the Hollywood 19 then Hollywood 10 faced their inquisitors. Nicholas Ray escaped (I have never understood how). Howard da Silva did not. "Friendly witness" Robert Taylor named him. Helen Craig's Mattie informs on Bowie and Keechie. Don't feel bad, the policeman says. You've done us a service. "That won't help me sleep at night," she replies. I wonder if Robert Taylor saw "They Live by Night," and how he slept.

No Keechy Way Out

A beautiful yet bleak movie about doomed young love on the run. The debut directorial feature of Nicholas Ray, it starts with three escaped prisoners on the run, roughing up the driver of a car they've hijacked after robbing a bank, two of them are seasoned old pros, but the third is a fresh-faced youngster imprisoned for a murder committed when he was a teenager. Although grateful for their springing him, he is resistant to their future plans to continue a life of crime. When they turn up at a safe house peopled by an old alcoholic friend and his young daughter, she makes clear her distaste for the three escapees. Tomboyish, with her hair up and dressed in overalls, she softens to the fresh-faced lad as she nurses him through an injury he's picked up on the road.

Soon they fall in love and decide to hit the road themselves, paying $20 dollars for a cut-price marriage but while they dream of carefree days ahead, in truth, they're always looking over their shoulders, fearing his discovery by the authorities, but when he's tracked down by his old cronies and forced into another bank job which goes wrong, his notoriety only increases and you just know his days are numbered.

Central to the film is the chemistry between its young stars Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell, as Bowie and Keechy, both completely natural in their roles. Production Code morality of the day ensures that Granger's Bowie character is duly punished for his misdemeanours but all the way you're rooting for the youngsters to somehow come through.

Starkly filmed by Ray, he ramps up the emotional tension as every time the couple find some solace and calm on their travels something happens to set them back. A last-ditch attempt to escape to Mexico only confirms Bowie's hopelessness at his and Keechy's prospects leaving just one final betrayal to seal his fate. Shot in atmospheric black and white with many imaginatively staged scenes alternating tenderness and fear, perhaps the most striking use of Ray's cameras are the helicopter shots looking down on the fleeing characters even as their journeys will take all of them nowhere.

Watching the film, I was reminded of another earlier noir classic about ill-fated young love, Fritz Lang's superb "You Only Live Once". Both are dark, driven, doomy pieces, memorable and highly recommended, just don't look for happy endings. Even the movies don't all end that way.

"Innocence and Its Virtues"

Many people forget, at one point or another, they once were young. Youth was a time of wonder, exploring, learning. Att the time, most Parents instilled values that were going to be needed, as the years went by. Many Youths remembered those values. Others shoved them aside for what ever reasons. And yet others got caught up in situations- being at the wrong place at the right Bowie and the girl he falls for, KeechieAs things've turned out for me, I'm a sucker for old movies. Black&White, Color, SciFi, Sit-Coms (My Little Margie) any ones! I hadn't realized how much I love to watch them.In this movie, the acting is unlike today's acting and that's another attribute that makes me go for noir movies.All of the Actors in "They Live By Night" add to the tragedy of the story by Screenwriter Charles Schnee. Sherman Todd's Film Editing is a sure story sequitur, while The Black & White photography (Kenneth Peach) captures the essential sinister scenes. The Lighting, shadows & depth of field (in the end scene) is pure Hollywood genius. Ollie Sigurdson (Stills) captured the youthful, innocent beauty of Keechie. Literally, I got all choked up. I wanted to embrace and console the poor, inconsolable child.Go see it. Have some popcorn too.
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