They Live By Night

Nicholas Ray's 1948 debut launches a retrospective season at the NFT

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Adapted from Edward Anderson’s novel, this contained many of the themes to which Ray would return throughout his career. The isolated hero and his anguished relationship with society is embodied here by Depression-era convict-on-the-run Bowie, played by Farley Granger. There’s a famous, much-imitated aerial shot of Bowie escaping by car along with fellow cons T-Dub and Chicamaw, played by terrific character actors Jay C Flippen and Howard Da Silva. They are bad guys through and through, but Bowie broke out to prove his innocence?fat chance in a Ray movie, particularly as T-Dub and Chicamaw drag him along on a bank job. Injured, Bowie goes into hiding, and is nursed back to health by Keechie. They fall in love, and marry. But Bowie’s new family plunge him into extremes of danger, and finally betray him. Robert Altman filmed the same novel in Thieves Like Us, and doomed fugitive lovers turn up again in Gun Crazy, Bonnie And Clyde, Badlands and True Romance. Landmark noir.


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