Cathy O'Donnell and Farley Granger in They Live By Night (dir. Nicholas Ray, 1948).
Howard Da Silva and Farley Granger.
Nicholas Ray infuses this low-budget crime melodrama with about ten kilotons of passion and style. Everything feels full of brooding and danger, even when there's not much going on, which is often the case. There are few actual set pieces, and the movement of the story overall is languid to the point of inertia. When it arrives at its inevitable climax, however, you feel the weight of everything that's led up to it, and it all takes on a poignant shapeliness. Granger and O'Donnell exude haunted magnetism, especially O'Donnell, who moves through the shadows (there are always shadows) like a grim and lovely wraith. Howard Da Silva and Jay C. Flippen (as characters named "One-Eye" and "T-Dub," respectively) are both outstanding as the criminals with whom Granger's "Bowie" is codependent, and Helen Craig plays the moll Mattie Mansfield like an understated Medea: she seethes with restrained bitterness that occasionally flares into bursts of physical anger.
Labels: Nicholas Ray