The Drop Box

January 27, 2008

They Live By Night (1948)

They Live by Night poster

I’ve tiptoed around Nicholas Ray‘s movies for ages: I love the stuff I’ve seen, particularly Johnny Guitar and In a Lonely Place, but I haven’t seen a lot – something about the burden of expectations… But when Ray’s first feature, They Live By Night, was recently made available on DVD, I took a chance. It looks like an easy one, part of a cheapo double feature with Side Street, but the film is a revelation. An absolutely devastating noir starring Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell as Bowie and Keechie, the eponymous lovers on the lam, They Live By Night highlights in particular what a great director of actors Ray was, right off the bat. He’s no slouch with the visuals either: often noted for his expressive use of camera and color, here Ray works us over in black and white, following the misbegotten couple from the first bated breath of romance to its last gasp.

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