They Live By Night (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Legendary director Nicholas Ray began his career with this lyrical film noir, the first in a series of existential genre films overflowing with sympathy for America s outcasts and underdogs. When the wide-eyed fugitive Bowie (Farley Granger), having broken out of prison with some bank robbers, meets the innocent Keechie (Cathy O Donnell), each recognizes something in the other that no one else ever has. The young lovers envision a new, decent life together, but as they flee the cops and contend with Bowie s fellow outlaws, who aren t about to let him go straight, they realize there s nowhere left to run. Ray brought an outsider s sensibility honed in the theater to this debut, using revolutionary camera techniques and naturalistic performances to craft a profoundly romantic crime drama that paved the way for decades of lovers-on-the-run thrillers to come.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
-New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
-Audio commentary featuring film historian Eddie Muller and actor Farley Granger
-New video interview with film critic Imogen Sara Smith
-Short piece from 2007 with film critic Molly Haskell, filmmakers Christopher Coppola and Oliver Stone, and film noir specialists Alain Silver and James Ursini
-Illustrated audio interview excerpts from 1956 with producer John Houseman
-PLUS: A new essay by film scholar Bernard Eisenschitz
Top customer reviews
Ray was consumed with the theme of love and especially young love, and equally enthralled by the role of the rebel. One can view "They Live By Night" as a dark version of "Rebel Without a Cause".
"They Live By Night" was inspired by a 1937 novel called "Thieves Like Us" (a re-make of this film by Robert Altman in 1974 used the original title). That novel, in turn, was inspired by the true life story of Bonnie and Clyde, which launched its own series of films.
Farley Granger stars and Cathy O'Donnell plays his girlfriend. The cast of characters includes Howard Da Silva, Jay C Flippen, and Will Wright
Farley Granger's made his film debut in 1943 ("North Star"). He had a busy, if undistinguished career, appearing in more than 50 films and for awhile, as a headliner. Some of his best work was done in Hitchcock's "Rope" (1948) and "Strangers on a Train" (1951).
Cathy O'Donnell appeared in "the Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) as the childhood sweetheart of Harold, the double amputee. She followed this with "They Live By Night" and teamed up with Granger again in 1950 for "Side Street". Her most memorable role was in "Detective Story" (1951) as the sweet girl next door. She played in 7 film noir movies
Howard DaSilva plays a one eyed psychopath. He appeared in more than 60 films, and gave memorable performances as Ben Franklin in "1776" (1972), FDR in "Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover" (1983), and Soviet Premier Khruschev in "The Missles of October" (1974).
Jay C. Flippen appeared in nearly 100 films, often with James Stewart ("Winchester 73", "Strategic Air Command", "The Restless Breed") and John Wayne ("Jet Pilot", "Hellfighters"). In the 60s he turned to TV where he appeared in dozens of westerns.
The sparse production can be credited to John Houseman who learned economy working with Orson Welles. Houseman had been heavily involved in several Orson Welles' productions and learned how to spend frugally. Following World War 2 Houseman turned his attention to production and made nearly 20 films, including "The Blue Dahlia" (1945), "On Dangerous Ground" (1952) also directed by Ray, "Julius Caesar" (1953) and "Lust for Life" (1956).
George Diskant is the cinematographer. Diskant worked with Houseman and Ray in 1952 "On Dangerous Ground". Diskant has several film noirs to his credit, including "Port of New York" (1949), "The Racket" (1951) and "Beware my Lovely" (1952). He turned to TV in the 50s and worked on Peckinpah's "The Westerner" (the best damned TV western ever) as well as "Rifleman."
Although Farley Granger lists "The Live By Night" as one of his favorite films, and while it has been praised by Francois Truffaut as Ray's best movie, I'm at a loss to see what they see. The film skates the boundaries of film noir, but never really settles in. The cinematography is interesting, but never really challenges you. There is a motley cast of characters, but they are generally on screen for too short a time to make much of an impact. All things considered, this is a good film for a first time director, but beyond that, it has limited appeal.