Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the coolest afterparty for night owls, early risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. Come on in and relax after a long trip—that the Cubs took. There’s no cover charge tonight. We still have a few good tables available. The show will start shortly. Bring your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
The Cubs finished the sweep of the Athletics today, 12-2. Yeah, I know the A’s are pretty much a Triple-A quality team at the moment, but with all the trouble the Cubs have had with West Coast road trips over the decades, I’m going to say that anything the Cubs win 5 out of 6 games in California is a big victory. No matter whether they’re playing the Dodgers or the Sacramento River Cats.
Last night I asked you what the Cubs’ number-one priority should be heading into the trade deadline in July. Of course, we have a long way to go until then, but the Cubs front office is undoubtedly making contingency plans at this point and so there’s no reason why we can’t.
Anyway, you spoke with a loud voice and said that the bullpen was the Cubs’ biggest priority, with 67 percent of the vote. In second place was starting pitching with 12 percent. I don’t know if that’s because you don’t trust the Cubs current starting pitching or whether you think someone is going to get injured. Both are reasonable assumptions.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
Tonight we’ve got a brand-new performance that was just posted to YouTube yesterday. It’s Robert Glasper and Norah Jones playing “Let it Ride.” I’ve spoken about Glasper a lot in this space before and if you don’t know who Norah Jones is, then you’re probably still in high school. It’s hard to believe it’s been 21 years since Jones released Come Away With Me. If you’ve got a copy, buy it a drink. It’s of age now.
Glasper is on piano here and Jones sings and plays keyboards.
Tonight’s film is They Drive by Night, a 1940 noir (or proto-noir) starring George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Ida Lupino and Humphrey Bogart and directed by Raoul Walsh. It’s the story of two truck-driving brothers (Raft and Bogart) whose fortunes change when they decide to go into business for themselves. It’s notable for being the last time that Raft would be considered a bigger star than Bogart. But what makes the film great is an incredibly unhinged performance by Lupino in the femme fatale role, completely overshadowing Sheridan, Raft and everyone else. It’s the performance that made Lupino an A-list star.
Raft stars as Joe Fabrini, and independent truck driver who is barely surviving on the meager commissions he gets for hauling produce around. But he’d rather be poor and independent than have a steady salary but be working for someone else. Bogart is Paul Fabrini, Joe’s younger brother and second-banana. Unlike Joe, Paul is married and would like the steady salary that comes with working for a trucking firm. He wants to start a family with his wife Pearl (Gale Page). But he also feels a lot of loyalty to his older brother, so he stays with him. Paul’s situation has him sporting a hangdog look on his face through most of the film, as if someone just ran over his pet rabbit. If you’ve seen Treasure of the Sierra Madre, this is an early version of Bogart’s “down on his luck” expression.
After getting cheated by the bosses and hounded by creditors, Joe finally gets the idea that, instead of working for hire, he’ll just drive out to the farms in rural California, buy the produce himself and drive it back to Los Angeles. Then he’ll sell it himself. Joe is successful doing this. Paul wants to take the profits and relax for a bit, but Joe insists upon re-investing their money on more produce and more profits. That means more driving with no days off.
During one trip, the brothers meet Cassie (Sheridan), a waitress at a local truck stop. Joe is struck by her, but she’s not particularly interested. But later on, the two brothers pick up Cassie hitch-hiking in the rain. She quit her job at the truck stop because the boss was getting too “handsy.” Cassie takes a ride with Joe and Paul into Los Angeles. Joe sets her up in a hotel until she can find a job, but it takes much of the film for Joe to win her over.
Spoilers ahead for an 83-year-old film:
Joe keeps pushing to do more runs and make more money, but eventually all the work takes a toll. Paul falls asleep at the wheel during a late-night run and the truck goes over a cliff. Joe comes out all right, but Paul loses an arm in the crash.
Without a truck or a driving partner, Joe is forced to take a job at the trucking company run by his friend Ed Carlsen (Alan Hale). Ed has a beautiful wife named Lana (Lupino) who is deeply infatuated with Joe. But Joe won’t do anything about it because Lana is married to his good friend. Also, because Joe has got a thing for Cassie and Lana is more than a little bit disturbing in any case, although he doesn’t say that to Lana.
Once hired, Lana sees to it that rather than sending Joe out as a truck driver, her husband makes him a dispatcher. That way, he’ll stay around Los Angeles and close to her as she tries to win him over.
Lana’s disinterest in her own marriage is made clear when Ed is revealed to be a boorish alcoholic. After a drunken party where Ed makes a complete fool of himself (and where Joe once again rejects Lana because she’s Ed’s wife), Lana drives a passed-out Ed home. Once in the garage, she gets an idea. If she just lets Ed sleep in the car, leaves the motor running and closes the garage doors, she’ll be rid of Ed once and for all. Everyone will think it’s an accident. Then she and Joe can be together.
After Ed’s death, Lana comes to Joe with the proposal that he run the trucking company in exchange for half-ownership. Joe agrees on the condition that it’s only a business relationship. Lana has no intention of sticking to that stipulation.
Joe turns out to be a terrific businessman and Ed’s trucking company becomes an even-bigger success under his leadership. This leads Lana to trying to impress Joe by purchasing fancy cars and expensive dresses to make herself look more attractive.
But eventually Lana finds out about Cassie and that Joe intends to marry her. This sends Lana over the edge. What will a spurned crazy woman do to Joe? I’m going to leave it there and let you watch the film.
Raft is the lead of this film and easily the weakest link. Although Raft was a big star, he was never a very good actor. I’m not sure he ever claimed to be one. But he was good-looking and he did have a certain charisma, even if he had an acting range that went all the way from A to B. In 1940, Hollywood still considered Bogart to be the “poor-man’s” George Raft as Bogart mostly got parts that Raft rejected. But even though Bogart’s part is kind of a crappy supporting part without a lot of heft to it, he certainly shows more charm than Raft does. It also demonstrated that Bogart could play a good guy. Up until They Drive By Night, Bogart was always the “heavy” in films. Warner Brothers didn’t think he had the face to be a hero.
Sheridan gets second-billing behind Raft. She’s solid, but the part of Cassie is a boring “good girl” part without much to it. She also disappears for large parts of the movie. While she seems reluctant to get involved with Joe when they first meet, we don’t really see why she changes her mind, other than she probably didn’t have a good reason to reject Joe in the first place. Perhaps it was just a matter of being disgusted with men after the experience in the truck stop.
But it’s Lupino who really steals the show as Lana. While it’s not a classic femme fatale part—Lana is more crazy than evil—she turns the part up to eleven. It’s a theatrical, over-the-top acting style that’s not much in vogue these days, but it was back then and it’s very entertaining.
Lupino also has an incredible wardrobe in this picture. Those of you who are fashion mavens should watch it just for that.
Lupino and Bogart would go on to star in High Sierra, also directed by Raoul Walsh, the next year. While They Drive by Night is a good movie, High Sierra is a lot better. Bogart and Lupino have such great chemistry in that film that it’s a shame that they are barely on-screen at the same time in this picture.
Also, it’s a sign of their ascendant stars that Lupino and Bogart were billed third and fourth in this film in 1940 and they were billed first and second a year later in High Sierra. Lupino was still billed above Bogart, even though Bogey is the real star of High Sierra. George Raft turned down Bogart’s part. That was the biggest mistake of his career.
Without getting into genre games, They Drive by Night is a pretty good example of early noir or just a precursor to noir. It’s dragged down a bit by Raft and Sheridan isn’t given a lot to do, but Lupino and Bogart make it worth your while.
Here’s the trailer of They Drive by Night. It kind of emphasizes the exciting action of the world of truck driving, but that’s actually a small part of the movie.
Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.
Tonight is a simple question: Do you think the Cubs are going to make the playoffs? Legendary football coach Jim Mora has a simple answer.
But seriously. the Cubs need to start thinking about making the playoffs. Certainly national baseball writer Jon Heyman thinks so. If the season ended tonight—well, we’d all be really confused and we’d wonder what happened to all the rest of the games—but if the season did end tonight, the Cubs would be the first National League Wild Card team and would travel out to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks in the first round of the playoffs.
Going over the Fangraphs’ famous playoff odds calculations, the Cubs’ chances of playing in October is up to 28.7 percent. That’s up from 11.2 percent at the start of the season.
The Cubs also have the best run-differential in the NL, although that total is certainly inflated by knocking the A’s around for three game by a score of 26 to 3. Still, they are 8-6 in games against teams that aren’t the A’s. And the only series they’ve lost this year was two out of three in the first series of the season against the Brewers, who are tied for the best record in the NL in the early going.
So tell us, are the Cubs making the playoffs this year? How optimistic are you?
Will the Cubs make the playoffs in 2023?
This poll is closed
Thank you to everyone who stopped in this week. It’s been a good week and you helped make it that way. Please check around your table for any of your possessions. Recycle any cans and bottles. Get home safely. Tip the waitstaff. Tell your friends. And join us again next week for more BCB After Dark.