"All film noir are crime drama, but not all crime drama are film noir."
- Caftan Woman's number one movie rule
Maddy Loves Her Classic Films, especially her film noir, which brings us to The Noirathon on July 27th to the 29th. Click HERE to embrace the dark side.
Director Jules Dassin had a knack for bringing us into the surrounding dark world. Years ago, Cinematheque Ontario presented a double bill of Dassin film-noir with Night and the City, 1950 and Thieves' Highway, 1949. The theatre viewing of these films confirmed Dassin's genius with the style.
A.I. Bezzerides (The Big Valley), created stories from his working background in trucking which intrigued filmmakers and gave us They Drive by Night and Thieves' Highway. Being the right man for the job, Bezzerides wrote the screenplay from his novel Thieves' Market for this 1949 film. Dassin collaborated with cinematographer Norbert Brodine (Kiss of Death) to create an atmosphere of physical and emotional darkness.
Richard Conte, Tamara Shayne, Morris Carnovsky
Nick Garcos played by Richard Conte is incongruously impetuous and steady. Nick is impetuous in his sudden decisions and steady in the way he follows through once his course is set. Nick, a veteran of the European theatre in WW2 has returned to his Fresno home after traveling the world as a mechanic on a steamer. He plans to marry his girlfriend Polly played by Barbara Lawrence and go into business with her father. First, there is the long-awaited reunion with his beloved parents played by Morris Carnovsky and Tamara Shayne.
Tragedy has befallen the family during Nick's absence. His father, a produce trucker, has not only been cheated at the San Francisco market, but an unexplained accident resulted in the amputation of his legs. The man to blame is a known cheat named Mike Figlia played by Lee J. Cobb with his trademark relish. Nick seeks retribution.
Richard Conte, Millard Mitchell
Ed Kinney played by Millard Mitchell has bought Mr. Garcos' beat-up old truck and Nick joins him in transporting the first Golden Delicious apples of the season to San Francisco. Ed is hoping for a windfall, and Nick a chance to bring down Figlia. The road to the city is a long and a dangerous one even for men not seeking revenge. In the course of the route, the bond between these makeshift partners is strengthened when Ed saves Nick's life. Nick had been trapped while changing a tire on the unstable vehicle. Ed falls behind in the old truck while Nick races ahead to the market.
Ed is bedeviled all the way by truckers "Slob" played by Jack Oakie and Pete played by future director Joseph Pevney. They kibbitz and annoy Ed all the way up the highway in a half-serious, due to Ed trying to keep them out of the apple deal, and half-joking way because they are comrades in arms, so to speak.
Richard Conte, George Tyne, Lee J. Cobb
Valentina Cortese, Richard Conte
Rica and Nick spark off each other with an instant attraction and understanding that builds on the sarcasm in their words and the kindness in their actions. A one-sided phone conversation tells Rica more about Nick and Polly's relationship than even Nick realizes. Rica's quick action in dangerous situations presents an admirable fearlessness. She is as impetuous and steady as Nick.
More tragedy strikes our truckers when Ed is killed in a horrific accident, bringing Slob and Pete again into the orbit of Nick Garcos and of Mike Figlia. It is a bitter and unsentimental orbit and the end of this journey will only be reached with explosive violence.
Life is tough enough without some crook making it tougher; the trucking business in particular. The audience is taken on a whirlwind journey of revenge and justice, redemption and new beginnings in Thieves' Highway.
Richard Conte, Lee J. Cobb, Hope Emerson
Hope Emerson and Richard Conte's exchange in Thieves' Highway is brief and certainly more friendly in nature than their previous encounters in House of Strangers and Cry of the City.