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First-time director Nicholas Ray does a good job of threading the needle between a romance and film noir/heist film with 'They Live by Night'. There is such a natural feeling to the actors and story-telling, and Ray keeps up a good, brisk pace for most of the film. Three convicts break out of prison at the beginning of the movie, a couple of older guys (Howard Da Silva and Jay C. Flippen) and one of the two's son (Farley Granger), who believes he was in there unjustly to begin with. He wants to raise a little money to hire a lawyer to clear his name, and makes the mistake of committing new crimes to do that. He meets a beautiful, smart young woman (Cathy O'Donnell), and soon the two of them are on the run, making this a forerunner of that kind of film.
I'm not as sure about Granger, and liked him better in 'Strangers on a Train', but O'Donnell is just wonderful. She has strong scenes throughout the movie, starting with those where she tries to talk sense into him. Her imploring eyes and minimal makeup are very effective at conveying the fundamental truth of innocence and simplicity. As the two fall in love, they have this lovely exchange while driving, her head on his shoulder:
"I like you so much. I don't know much about kissing. You're gonna have to show me."
"I don't know too much about it myself."
"We'll learn together."
That sounds a little syrupy as I read it now, but it worked for me at the time. The film does get a little melodramatic, and while there are scenes which I adored, there are others which are a little cloying. On the other hand, there is a quite a bit of realism here as well. To give us this, and to create interest, Ray shoots from a helicopter, and from the backseat of the getaway car during a robbery. He also creates a natural feel in his scenes, sometimes bordering on having actors slightly out of focus. We're sometimes informed of events after the fact, relieving us of the tedium of seeing it all, and again, keeping us interested. The dialogue seems authentic, and the supporting cast is very strong. Even the character names add a certain feeling - 'Keechie', 'T-Dub', 'Chicamaw', etc The film trundles a bit towards its inexorable end, but its last scene is strong, and touching.
Teenagers will love it.
Guess i was expecting more
Thrilling, romantic and fun. Nicholas Ray's near masterwork is the staple for runaway couples hiding on the road and his direction in this film is subtle, particular and beautiful.
A fine doomed love film, with flowing dialogue and bold characters, da Silva's in particular comes to mind.
Another Film Noir recorded via TCM recently, this one is a story of doomed love between a young hood and a girl he meets along the wife on the run with his group of criminal cohorts. It's a decent little watch and well worth a look if you get the chance.
Give it a rental.
A sentimental but extremely well done film noir classic.
Poetry so sad it hurts.
Nicholas Ray's directorial debut bears the hallmarks of his later masterpieces - his central themes of doomed youth and conflicted masculinity are all here. It bears a vague resemblance to the Bonnie and Clyde story, but Ray's ultra-romantic vision has more in common with Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The early scenes, in particular, establish sympathy for the two main characters which a more conventional director could not have achieved, with naturalistic touches that show how Ray was a film-maker ahead of his time (which would ultimately be his undoing.)
Nicholas Ray's first film is about DOOMED LOVE (yes, in all caps). Bowie and Keechie meet in the old gas station when he busts out of jail (been there since he was 16) with a couple of older cons keen to continue robbing banks. Her dad runs the place but he's a drunk and not very good to her. Farley Granger (with hints of Keanu Reeves) plays Bowie and Cathy O'Donnell plays Keechie. They hit the road to get away from it all (travelling only by night) and to fulfill the portentous intensity of their DOOMED LOVE. Nick Ray is out of the gates like a shot with this gorgeous and "dilated" film full of giant head close-ups of kids who have to be tough but would rather swoon.