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They Drive by Night


misswonderly3
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I've seen this 1940 Raoul Walsh drama a number of times, but tonight (when it aired on TCM), I appreciated it more than ever.

It's not a great film, but it's a good one. I love all the performances, but it's Ida Lupino's picture.  The scene where she tries to keep George Raft from leaving her (not that he was ever with her) feels like the centre of the movie. It must be really difficult to say a line like " You belong to me. I commit murder for you!" but she pulls it off beautifully.

And check out the bit where she decides to leave poor old Alan Hale passed out in the car with the motor running. She doesn't say a word, but her face, her eyes harden as she realizes how easy it will be.

And how 'bout those outfits ? Hey, no wonder she's fed up with her spouse - he keeps wrinkling the material.

 

Anne Sheridan is always enjoyable to watch; I love her wise-cracking waitress persona in this.

 

And it's interesting to reflect upon Raft and Bogart, and how in just a year or so, it will be Bogart playing the leads and Raft playing second fiddle - or no fiddle at all. But, apparently that was the way he wanted it. And while George is good in They Drive by Night- the role of Joe Fabrini really suits him - I keep watching Bogart and thinking about how he's about to bust out as one of the 20th century's iconic film legends (as opposed to a non-iconic film legend....)

 

Walsh must have had something like that in mind too, since the very next year he directs Bogart in arguably his first real starring role in High Sierra.  Along with the lovely Ida Lupino again, this time playing a very different sort of character.

 

Oh, something else I really like about They Drive by Night : Because it's a "little guy" story, about ordinary people, you get a real sense of how life in 1940 America was like. Ok, it's a movie, of course it's not total realism.

- But even more than most films from that era, you get a little time travel package of everyday trivia - what trucks looked like then,  how ordinary people dressed, how they interacted with one another, and how they spoke ("Stop it, I tell ya, stop it !" It's the "I tell ya" bit I really savour)

Oh, and pinball.

 

Maybe this middlin' George Raft vehicle (sorry couldn't resist) doesn't deserve the many paragraphs I've devoted to it here. But sometimes it's those middlin' but fun movies that hit the cinematic spot.

 

 

 

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I agree and disagree with the things you mentioned. First, I don't think Ida is the center of the film. I think Alan Hale is (and what is he, fifth or sixth billed?). The reason I say this is because when she kills him, the center is dead. And watching her sink into that black hole is what makes the last fifteen minutes so great. 

 

My favorite scene though in this film is the one where Raft calls Sheridan on the phone-- and we get this nice exchange between them and the editor has split the screen but put a telephone pole and lines in between the shots. It reminds me of early television drama-- where a minimum of effects conveys intimacy, in this case across miles. It really draws us into the relationship they share. 

 

Raft made a film based on his life (where he played himself) at Universal shortly after this, where he was able to return to his music/dance roots. I think he enjoyed musicals most. But unfortunately he was heavily typecast in crime films and he would have a multi-picture deal at RKO during the mid-to-late 40s where he would again be making darker-themed films.

 

As for the trucks and the clothing, we can observe the style of vehicles and dress in any film from any era, when you think about it. And I sincerely doubt that this was how the trucking industry was at the time. Warners writers had stock situations about the little guy dealing with corrupt business owners and corrupt government officials that were supposed to make the audience feel empowered when they went to see these films. A lot of it is contrived, manufactured by the scenarists. I am sure Jack Warner was too busy enjoying his own riches to worry about whether truckers across America were really struggling.That was not the underlying goal here. It was to create entertainment working class movie-goers could relate to on some level. They could relate to Raft and Bogart's characters, not Hale's-- so when Lupino offs him, they may get a wicked satisfaction out of seeing such a foolish powerful man die.

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I just saw this movie for the first time tonight.  I loved it.  Seeing George Raft in comparison to Humphrey Bogart, I can see why Bogart eventually became the bigger star.  While I didn't have any issues with Raft in this film, I thought he was fine, Bogart just seems to have that extra "something" that makes him more interesting than Raft.  It was excellent casting on Warner Brothers' part to have Raft and Bogart play brothers, they sound very similar and have similar builds.  It made sense.

 

I really loved Ann Sheridan's sassy waitress character, I will definitely seek more of her films out.  However, I agree that this was Ida Lupino's film.  Prior to this film, I'd only ever seen Lupino in High Sierra, Escape Me Never and an episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour where she plays herself.  Lupino was fantastic in this movie and I'll definitely be looking out for more of her films on the TCM schedule and on Netflix.  I loved the scene where she confesses to Raft trying to get him to stay and I loved when she goes completely bonkers in the courtroom and has to be carried out.

 

At the end of the film, was Lupino in jail? or was she committed to a sanitarium? I wasn't sure.

 

Awesome film.  I may have to get the TCM Greatest Legends Collection: Humphrey Bogart just to get this film.

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Ida Lupino and Ann Sheridan had some great roles and were excellent actors.  For those who may not know it, Lupino went on to become a successful director.  You will see her name in the credits for a lot of 1950's TV shows as director.

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I mentioned the stock situations the Warners writers used, in an earlier post. We see this is MANPOWER, another Raft picture at the studio around this time-- only it's about linemen not truckers.

 

A better movie about the problems faced by truckers on the road is Jules Dassin's THIEVES' HIGHWAY. Fox put more of a social message into these kinds of films.

 

Also, over on the Games & Trivia board in the Classic Keyword(s) thread we covered trucking movies back on Round 116-- so you can see other films (including more modern ones) that address this theme.

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Nice photos Tom!  Looks like the cast had a good time filming "They Drive By Night".  Last night was the first time I had seen this film all the way through.  Good dialogue by the cast throughout the picture is what made the movie great.

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I mentioned the stock situations the Warners writers used, in an earlier post. We see this is MANPOWER, another Raft picture at the studio around this time-- only it's about linemen not truckers.

 

A better movie about the problems faced by truckers on the road is Jules Dassin's THIEVES' HIGHWAY. Fox put more of a social message into these kinds of films.

 

Also, over on the Games & Trivia board in the Classic Keyword(s) thread we covered trucking movies back on Round 116-- so you can see other films (including more modern ones) that address this theme.

Both THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT and THIEVES HIGHWAY are very good dramas about the trucking industry back in the 1940s. Both were based on books by A. I. Bezzarides (sp?), who also did the screenplay. What TH has in common with TDBN, MANPOWER and other great proletarian dramas.at Warners,.is the sizzling dialogue, and the tart delivery of same.by the many excellent actors in them. Truly enjoyable, small masterpieces of their time and type.

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Question here:

 

While watching Ida's expert performance last night in this film, I was starting to wonder about that weird little "coil" of hair hanging down over the right side of her forehead...

5eccac604aadd8e2803298a8bd17bec1.jpg

 

 

 

And then at the end of the film when she goes bonkers on the witness stand, I think I started to get the reason for it...

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It appears she had some kind of bump on that part of her forehead, and so I deduced that that coil of hair she sported was to hide that bump.

 

After checking Google Images of her this morning while composing this post, I noticed that she often covered that portion of her forehead with either a tuft of hair or with a hat often cocked over it.

 

I have never noticed this before about Miss Lupino, and so the question here is: I'da like to know(sorry, couldn't resist) if anyone here knows the actual story of this? Was this caused by some accident she had suffered in her younger years?

 

And not that this is any kind of big deal at all, but this does sort of remind me of the how, say, Jean Arthur only wanted to be shot from one side of her face and a few other examples to be found in Hollywood history.

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I just saw this movie for the first time tonight.  I loved it.  Seeing George Raft in comparison to Humphrey Bogart, I can see why Bogart eventually became the bigger star.  While I didn't have any issues with Raft in this film, I thought he was fine, Bogart just seems to have that extra "something" that makes him more interesting than Raft.  It was excellent casting on Warner Brothers' part to have Raft and Bogart play brothers, they sound very similar and have similar builds.  It made sense.

 

I really loved Ann Sheridan's sassy waitress character, I will definitely seek more of her films out.  However, I agree that this was Ida Lupino's film.  Prior to this film, I'd only ever seen Lupino in High Sierra, Escape Me Never and an episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour where she plays herself.  Lupino was fantastic in this movie and I'll definitely be looking out for more of her films on the TCM schedule and on Netflix.  I loved the scene where she confesses to Raft trying to get him to stay and I loved when she goes completely bonkers in the courtroom and has to be carried out.

 

At the end of the film, was Lupino in jail? or was she committed to a sanitarium? I wasn't sure.

 

Awesome film.  I may have to get the TCM Greatest Legends Collection: Humphrey Bogart just to get this film.

 

Yes,  watching Raft and Bogie in the same scene is it clear to me who the better actor is.   I'm drawn to Bogie even though he has less lines in the film.    Raft is just flat but he does do a better job in TDBN then he does in other films I have seen him in.

 

Most of the juice in this film is supplied by the two ladies.   Fine actresses.

 

As for Lupino;   Try to catch Out of the Fog and The Hard Way.      

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This was a well done film on truckers with Raft, Bogart and Sheridan very good, but half way through the film they turn it into a remake of the Bette Davis, Paul Muni film "BorderTown". Yes, Ida Lupino was a terrific actress, but I wish they would have stayed with the truckers story line..

 

Yes, it was thanks to Walsh a year or so later when Raft said "No" to High Sierra and Walsh recommended Bogart to Jack Warner as the lead. Warner wasn't crazy about the idea, but gave Walsh the go ahead and the rest as they say is history....

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It appears she had some kind of bump on that part of her forehead, and so I deduced that that coil of hair she sported was to hide that bump.

 

After checking Google Images of her this morning while composing this post, I noticed that she often covered that portion of her forehead with either a tuft of hair or with a hat often cocked over it.

 

I have never noticed this before about Miss Lupino, and so the question here is: I'da like to know(sorry, couldn't resist) if anyone here knows the actual story of this? Was this caused by some accident she had suffered in her younger years?

 

 

I found this brief writeup about Ida Lupino in reference to an accident she had been in in the early '30s:

 

But Ida's career almost ended before it barely started. She was struck by a car and hurled face down on a gravel walk. Every one in the family held their breath when the bandages were removed. Luckily most of the scars had faded. Only the one on her forehead was visible and she covered that with a lock of hair.

 

Note, it is a reference to a scar, rather than bump.

 

A couple of notes about Lupino. She would eventually marry Louis Hayward in 1938 but initially said, upon meeting him, that he bored her to extinction.

 

She generally didn't like women but Ann Sheridan was one of the few exceptions (as you can see by that photo of the two of them kicking up their heels together). Sheridan in a late life interview referred to Ida as a good friend.

 

Lupino threw a party for Thelma Todd at the Trocadero in December, 1935. The next day Todd was found dead under mysterious circumstances and Lupino was called as a witness for the investigation of Hot Toddy's death, which was ruled "accidental carbon monoxide poisoning."

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This was a well done film on truckers with Raft, Bogart and Sheridan very good, but half way through the film they turn it into a remake of the Bette Davis, Paul Muni film "BorderTown". Yes, Ida Lupino was a terrific actress, but I wish they would have stayed with the truckers story line..

 

 

I agree. My favourite part of the film is the first half before it turns on the melodrama.

 

I particularly enjoy the verbal zingers among the cast members in the truck drivers cafe near the film's opening. Raft and Bogart play well off one another, and it's fun watching Roscoe Karns playing the pin ball machines.

 

Best of all is Ann Sheridan as the "hard boiled" waitress (with a soft centre as we later find out) bantering with the truckers.

 

And truck driver terminology would be used for what was obviously sexual banter.

 

"Nice chassis," says one of the truckers looking her over.

 

"Classy chassis," says another.

 

"Who do you think you're kidding?" Sheridan snaps back at them, "You couldn't even afford the headlights!"

 

That shuts them up, as well as amazes me that the censors allowed it to stay in in 1940.

 

Nobody could sling out a razor sharp one liner with quite the same invective as Ann Sheridan. While I enjoy the second half of the film, the Bordertown remake, and Lupino is fun to watch, particularly with her "The doors made me do it" breakdown on the witness stand, a very large part of me is sorry than Ann Sheridan's warm, vulnerable waitress character largely disappears in that half.

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Both THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT and THIEVES HIGHWAY are very good dramas about the trucking industry back in the 1940s. Both were based on books by A. I. Bezzarides (sp?), who also did the screenplay. What TH has in common with TDBN, MANPOWER and other great proletarian dramas.at Warners,.is the sizzling dialogue, and the tart delivery of same.by the many excellent actors in them. Truly enjoyable, small masterpieces of their time and type.

But I think THIEVES' HIGHWAY is a little more progressive (perhaps because of the combined influence of Zanuck and Dassin). It looks a bit more at the growers who need the truckers to carry their products to market. THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT gets overwhelmed by the Hale-Lupino subplot at the end. With THIEVES' HIGHWAY, I feel it is mostly a story about Conte's character, which is what it remains from beginning to end, without veering off too much into all kinds of extra melodrama.

 

It is almost like if you took THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT and mixed it with JUKE GIRL, then boiled it down and skimmed off some of the melodrama-- you would get THIEVES' HIGHWAY.

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But I think THIEVES' HIGHWAY is a little more progressive (perhaps because of the combined influence of Zanuck and Dassin). It looks a bit more at the growers who need the truckers to carry their products to market. THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT gets overwhelmed by the Hale-Lupino subplot at the end. With THIEVES' HIGHWAY, I feel it is mostly a story about Conte's character, which is what it remains from beginning to end, without veering off too much into all kinds of extra melodrama.

 

It is almost like if you took THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT and mixed it with JUKE GIRL, then boiled it down and skimmed off some of the melodrama-- you would get THIEVES' HIGHWAY.

 

TDBN is a case where WB wished to feature Ida,  who they just signed to a 7 year contract.   So they took the plot line from Border town and merged it with this trucking story so that Ida could re-create that Bette Davis performance.   It was all done so that Ida could go nuts and make a splash.   From a marketing angle it worked well.

 

We should feel lucky;  WB could have taken parts from Juarez instead!       Yea,  while Raft and Bogie are delivering goods in Mexico Raft meets a decedent of Carlota.   

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TDBN is a case where WB wished to feature Ida,  who they just signed to a 7 year contract.   So they took the plot line from Border town and merged it with this trucking story so that Ida could re-create that Bette Davis performance.   It was all done so that Ida could go nuts and make a splash.   From a marketing angle it worked well.

 

We should feel lucky;  WB could have taken parts from Juarez instead!       Yea,  while Raft and Bogie are delivering goods in Mexico Raft meets a decedent of Carlota.   

Osborne played up (in both the intro and outro) the fact that Ida was recreating Bette's part. When I watched it, I found it to be unlike Ida's other performances in every other film I've seen her in. Usually, she has her own style. But I got the feeling they had her sit down in the studio screening room and have her study Bette's performance from BORDERTOWN. She has the tics and other Davis mannerisms down pat. She doesn't do this in her other films, thank goodness. 

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Ida Lupino's possessive, neurotic character is a complete contrast to the laid back appeal of Ann Sheridan in They Drive By Night. Lupino's character puts on the dramatic fireworks but it's easy going Sheridan with whom you would rather spend your time. (Just don't make Annie's waitress sore because the early scenes in the film also show that the lady has spirit and a tart tongue).

 

It's interesting that a truck driving melodrama (male testosterone territory) has its two most memorable performances come from the film's two actresses.

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I agree that this film seems like two different films, but I think the storylines were intertwined well enough that the story was easy to follow.  I haven't seen Bordertown, so I can't make any comparisons between Ida Lupino's performance in They Drive By Night and Bette Davis' in Bordertown.  Robert Osborne mentioned the similarities between the two films in his introduction and commented in both his opening and closing remarks that Lupino was seen as competition for Davis, however, Davis didn't see it that way. 

 

I liked the melodramatic subplot involving Lupino, Alan Hale and George Raft.  The friendly relationship between Hale and Raft provided an avenue for Raft to continue to make money after his and Humphrey Bogart's truck was ruined and Bogart is recovering after losing his arm.  Lupino's interest in Raft makes her character more interesting.  If she was merely Hale's unhappy wife, she would be wasted in the role.  The unrequited love angle between Lupino and Raft and later her murdering Hale as a means to get closer to Raft I think made the film more interesting.  After Hale dies, Lupino appoints Raft to head up her husband's business.  This keeps Raft close and provides Lupino a reason to hang around.  It also gives Raft an opportunity to hire Bogart and help him continue to make a living after he loses his arm. 

 

I do agree with the criticism that Ann Sheridan should have been given a larger role.  I liked her sassy waitress character and then after Raft begins working for Hale, Sheridan disappears.  We're to assume that she's living in the place Raft put her up in and working.  I like how she confronted Lupino at the end and conspired with Bogart and the rest of Raft's employees to keep him involved in Hale's business-- after all, Bogart and Raft wanted to make a career out of trucking.  This way, they achieved their goal, albeit, not the most conventional way, but they did it!

 

Lupino is just bonkers and I loved her role in the film.  I'm always a sucker for melodrama--especially ones with attraction gone wrong, a la Fatal Attraction.  You can't get much more bananas than someone murdering their husband "for you."

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Looks like everyone here likes this film  a lot and I would agree with that. Strong performances by all (including Mr Raft) and great direction by Raoul Walsh who moves things at a nice brisk  pace.  The film is like two stories linked together , unfortunately Bogie and Ann Sheridan have to move into the background as Ida's character moves to the front .  Should there have been two separate stories (films) here?  I don't think so. The first half featuring the two trucking  brothers and their adventures runs its course and has to lead  to somewhere. It does, to the second story and the new main character (Lupino) and her neurotic obsession with Raft. From that point on its clearly Ida's film and she gets to have that great melt down at the end (like Bogart does in many of his best performances).  The thing to  keep in mind is how young she is when making this film (21/22) , a very impressive performance. I know George Raft usually gets beat up for his acting limitations, but he does rather well in this film,  its definitely one of his best. I think he had great screen presence  potential, if only he would have worked at it a little.  Director Walsh was just the kind of guy Raft needed to be  working with.  By not making HIGH SIERRA with Walsh right after THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT was a huge mistake for Raft. Walsh would have gotten  another strong performance out of Raft I'm sure.   But that left the door open for Bogart to get a plum starring role (HIGH SIERRA is my favorite Bogart film) so  I guess things worked out for the best for us film fans.

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...As for the trucks and the clothing, we can observe the style of vehicles and dress in any film from any era, when you think about it. And I sincerely doubt that this was how the trucking industry was at the time. Warners writers had stock situations about the little guy dealing with corrupt business owners and corrupt government officials that were supposed to make the audience feel empowered when they went to see these films. A lot of it is contrived, manufactured by the scenarists. I am sure Jack Warner was too busy enjoying his own riches to worry about whether truckers across America were really struggling.That was not the underlying goal here. It was to create entertainment working class movie-goers could relate to on some level. They could relate to Raft and Bogart's characters, not Hale's-- so when Lupino offs him, they may get a wicked satisfaction out of seeing such a foolish powerful man die.

 

It's annoying when I acknowledge a comment I make might not be 100% accurate, and then have that comment completely ignored.

 

I went out of my way to say  I was aware that They Drive by Night is a movie, and as such, is not an exact representation of how ordinary life was at that time. To quote myself, I said:

 

"Oh, something else I really like about They Drive by Night : Because it's a "little guy" story, about ordinary people, you get a real sense of how life in 1940 America was like. Ok, it's a movie, of course it's not total realism...."

 

Now, you are right that we can get an idea of the clothes, vehicles, etc. of the time from almost any old movie. In fact, this is one of the reasons I love old movies.

But for some reason I really noticed it more than usual in TDBN. Maybe it was the diner scene that did it; for one thing, I hadn't realized they had pinball machines in 1940  (I always thought they were developed by Pete Townsend in 1969.)

 

I did not see They Drive by Night with the political/ historical/ "social justice"  perspective you seemed to bring to the film. I don't feel that earnest about it.

As for poor old Alan Hale, I can't see anyone taking a "wicked delight" in his death. I think Walsh wanted Hale to  come across as a "regular guy" who'd made good. He certainly isn't depicted with the nasty arrogance many well-off men of business are in other films from that era. Yes, he's a bit of a dork, and why he can't see that his wife loathes him does not speak well for his intelligence or his qualities of perception. But he also seems like an exceptionally good-natured guy, who's more than willing to help out his friend, and far from "delighting" in his murder, I felt quite sad for him.

 

I do, however, appreciate your recommendation of Thieves' Highway, a film I've never seen. I'll watch for it on the TCM schedule...

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As for poor old Alan Hale, I can't see anyone taking a "wicked delight" in his death. I think Walsh wanted Hale to  come across as a "regular guy" who'd made good. He certainly isn't depicted with the nasty arrogance many well-off men of business are in other films from that era. Yes, he's a bit of a dork, and why he can't see that his wife loathes him does not speak well for his intelligence or his qualities of perception. But he also seems like an exceptionally good-natured guy, who's more than willing to help out his friend, and far from "delighting" in his murder, I felt quite sad for him.

 

 

I also felt bad for the Alan Hale character.  He seemed to genuinely adore Ida Lupino, even though she obviously did not reciprocate those feelings.  I got the impression that Hale did notice her disdain of him, but laughed it off as just her sense of humor.  Perhaps he didn't want to admit that his much younger wife did not love him.  His laughing off her insults was more of a defense mechanism.  I imagine that Lupino was only with him because of what he could give her.  She seemed to have fairly nice clothes, a nice car and a nice home.  I imagine that Raft appealed to her because he was younger.  It seems she really only wanted to have an affair with him at first (the best of both worlds: the wealth of Hale and the youth of Raft) but since Raft was loyal to his friend Hale, he refused.  She then went over the edge and decided to "off" Hale as a means to rid Raft of his excuse to not be with her.  Poor Alan Hale, it seemed he was a nice guy who had a bit too much to drink one night, only to have his selfish wife kill him. 

 

I felt bad for Hale and felt vindicated for him when Lupino was taken into custody for the murder of her husband. 

 

I'm glad Raft stayed strong and ignored all Ida's come ons and stayed with Ann Sheridan.  Run, George, Run! She's crazy!

 

I'd be curious to know how Ida felt when filming the scene where she considers killing Hale with the carbon monoxide poisioning, seeing that she was so close to the Thelma Todd case a few years prior.

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This film can almost be considered a "noir" . Poor Alan Hale (Sr) fell for  "femme fatale"  Ida, and what if Raft had gone over for her next (like Mitchum,  Lancaster, Fred Mac, etc  certainly  would have in a later noir film) . Raft lucked out, he got in a jam but Ida inadvertently let him off the hook. Phyllis  Dietrichson  or Kathie  Moffett would have gone down but taken him along too .

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What's interesting about Lana Carlsen's (Lupino) murder of her husband is how passive it is.

She doesn't have to do anything. All she has to do is walk away, leaving the motor running and the garage door closed (oh, that terrifying garage door, which will come to haunt her in future days).

 

It's probably the easiest murder in a classic film I've ever seen. The man is completely unconscious, inebriated beyond awakening, the poison gas (carbon monoxide) is conveniently already being produced from the car, all that has to happen is for the  husband to stay asleep....forever.

 

What makes it even easier is the complete plausibility of the circumstances of his death. If only she hadn't gone bonkers, she could have lived the rest of her life without so much as a suspicious glance from anyone. (Not even George Raft...)

 

Hey - I was kind of wondering what Raft (Joe) would have done if Ida hadn't decided to try and frame him.

Would he have kept quiet about what she confessed to him, in a fit of rage and frustration? Or would he have gone to the police?

It's my guess that he wouldn't have said anything, but we'll never know.

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