They Live By Night (1949)

NICHOLAS RAY

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

USA, 1949.  RKO Radio Pictures.  Screenplay by , adaptation by Nicholas Ray, based on the novel Thieves Like Us by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .

 gets out of prison at the age of 23 after having gone in at 16 for killing a man. With no experience of any good society, it isn’t long before he and his much older prison buddies are hitting the road robbing banks. His path hits a snag when he meets young , herself the daughter of a lowlife thug, and they fall in love and get married, hiding out in various places on their journey in the hopes that their having gotten into something good will lead to a better future. This directorial debut by Nicholas Ray, future legend maker of Rebel Without A Cause, is a gorgeously shot film noir that seeks a healthy level of sympathy for the youngsters whose perception of life is hopelessly skewed; while it doesn’t demand that these kids not take responsibility for their antisocial behaviour, it does force us to look at the fact that they were pretty much set up to fail from the start. Granger and O’Donnell are endlessly appealing in the leads, while the supporting characters do a fantastic job of making the atmosphere real and giving the story weight.

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