They Live by Night

They Live by Night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is an agreeable premise in Nicholas Ray‘s They Live by Night (1948):  a young ex-con who robs a bank loves, and hits the road with, a saucy gal who knows better than to rob banks.

Bowie (Farley Granger) wants the straight-and-narrow while on the lam, but ordeals do arise. . . Keechie, Bowie’s wife, is a country girl whom the filmmakers glamorize a bit.  She is played by Cathy O’Donnell with her semi-innocent, semi-sophisticated face.

Ray’s film is pretty naturalistic at first, but the romantic ooze it provides does nothing to spoil the story’s appeal.  Bowie and Keechie live by night.  Accent on the word “live,” for they do live—though they are also running.  If you’ve heard the names Bowie and Keechie before, it may be from Robert Altman’s lousy remake of They Live by Night, titled Thieves Like Us, which is the title of the novel the two flicks are based on.