They just don't make 'em like They Drive By Night anymore. This slam-bang Warner Bros. attraction stars George Raft and Humphrey Bogart as Joe and Paul Fabrini, owners of a small but scrappy trucking firm. The film deftly combines comedy with thrills for the first half-hour or so, as the Fabrini boys battle crooked distributors and unscrupulous rivals while establishing their transport company. Things take a potentially tragic turn when the overworked Paul Fabrini falls asleep at the wheel and cracks up, losing an arm in the accident. He's pretty bitter for a while, but, with the help of his loving wife, Pearl (Gale Page), Paul eventually snaps out of his self-pity and goes to work as a dispatcher for the Fabrinis' company. Meanwhile, Joe's on-and-off romance with wisecracking waitress Cassie Hartley (Ann Sheridan) is threatened by the presence of seductive Lana Carlsen (Ida Lupino), the wife of glad-handing trucking executive Ed Carlsen (Alan Hale). At this point, the film metamorphoses into a remake of the 1935 Paul Muni-Bette Davis vehicle Bordertown. Desperately in love with Joe, Lana murders her husband, making it look like an accident, then offers Joe half-interest in Carlsen's organization. Joe accepts the offer, but spurns Lana's romantic overtures, whereupon the scheming vixen accuses Joe of plotting Carlsen's murder. Thus, the stage is set for a spectacular courtroom finale, completely dominated by a demented Lana, whose "mad scene" rivals those of Ophelia and Lucia di Lammermoor. In addition to the full-blooded performances by the stars and the virile direction by Raoul Walsh, They Drive By Night benefits immeasurably from the nonstop brilliant dialogue by Jerry Wald and Richard Macaulay -- especially in an early lunch-counter scene between Ann Sheridan and George Raft, generously seasoned with hilarious double- and single-entendres.
by Hal Erickson synopsis