They Drive by Night ★★½

What a complete mess of a movie, but one made up of some attractive pieces. The beginning with a Steinbeckian tale of independent truckers in California could be a great drama if the movie was actually interested in that. Instead it is constantly derailed by the worst comedy bits. Some of the goofy parts are excusable, especially the ridiculous loan-shark who is hated by all that didn't have a problem borrowing money from him. This says something about the characters and the dishonest entrepreneurial spirit that allows some to succeed. The more egregious pinball gags and the likes do not serve a useful purpose like that and are just grating.

The obligatory romance with snappy banter is also excusable and quite amusing. Ann Sheridan starts out with one-liners that land like punches, which makes it shocking when she ends up embarrassingly stiff every time she is forced to string three sentences together. It's a rough watch, only to be saved by Ida Lupino taking over the screen. Until she ends up being in yet another wildly different movie about a murderous femme fatale who pours on the thickest layer of insane overacting through court room scenes. As awesome as Lupino is, the script asks her to do terrible things that derails both her performance and the whole movie.