They Live by Night (1948)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Film Noir, Melodrama  |   Release Date - Aug 1, 1948 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Lucia Bozzola

A premiere purveyor of high-strung anguish and jittery visual panache, Nicholas Ray filled his 1949 directorial debut with the wrenching emotion, fateful violence, and stylistic flair that would mark his most famous films, Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Johnny Guitar (1954). Adapted from Edward Anderson's novel Thieves Like Us and starring sweet-faced Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell, the film presents a compassionate view of 1930s outlaws in love. Unlike the neurotic duo of Gun Crazy (1949) or the sexy rogues of Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Bowie and Keechie are innocents doomed by circumstances. From the trail-blazing use of helicopter shots to claustrophobic close-ups and a bank robbery shot from inside the getaway car, Ray maintains the tension of the couple's flight from the law, while the noir-shadowed nightworld underlines the hopelessness of their plight. Little noticed in 1949, but championed, along with Ray in general, by the influential French film journal Cahiers du Cinéma, They Live By Night stands as a vital predecessor to both Bonnie and Clyde and Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrot le Fou (1965); it was also reinterpreted by Robert Altman in 1974 under the novel's original title, Thieves Like Us.