Film Reviews, Short Review

They Live by Night (1949)


One of three films Nicholas Ray directed in 1949, They Live by Night has endured far longer than the other two, and with good reason. This is hard-boiled and ugly film noir; considering how Ray was renowned for dark material even in the midst of Hollywood’s Hays Code era, it’s hardly likely to be anything but. Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell star as two lovers on the run who, by bad luck and necessity, get pulled deeper and deeper into criminality, even as both start out innocent (ironically, fugitive-on-the-run Granger is determined to use some of his ill-earned money to clear his name). Fiercely critical of the dog-eat-dog nature of the American dream/rat race, They Live by Night is one of Ray’s finest films, laden with tragedy from the start and buffeted by stylish high-contrast black-and-white throughout.


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