Greatest Film Scenes
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They Live By Night (1948)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

They Live By Night (1948)

In director Nicholas Ray's debut film - this film noir classic - it was an adaptation of Edward Anderson's 1937 Bonnie and Clyde-inspiring novel Thieves Like Us (later remade by Robert Altman as a film with the original title in 1974); although a crime thriller, it was more an emotionally-told, melodramatic love story of a naive couple on the road and on the run; the story was about the newly-married couple's ill-fated and doomed relationship from the start:

  • in the film's opening before the title screen, two lovers kissed, as the screen's words stated: ("This boy and this girl were never properly introduced to the world we live in.... To tell their story...")
  • desperate 23 year-old fugitive criminal - an escaped convict named Arthur "Bowie" Bowers (Farley Granger), impulsively married young and naive Catherine "Keechie" Mobley (Cathy O'Donnell), the niece of one of his hardened criminal associates named Chickamaw 'One-Eye' Mobley (Howard Da Silva)
  • he was forced to engage in more robberies, while struggling to attain their quixotic dream of living a normal life. They drove at night and stayed at various remote cabins to evade the convicts, when Keechie became pregnant
  • in the film's downbeat and tragic finale, Bowie was about to leave Keechie to pursue a new life for them (possibly in Mexico or elsewhere) before returning for her. He wrote a goodbye note, and then was persuaded by the one who had betrayed him to police, Chickamaw's sister-in-law Mattie (Helen Craig), to walk to the cabin where Keechie was sleeping and give it to her personally; in a trap, Bowie was gunned down outside the room
  • Keechie took the crumpled note from Bowie's dead hand and read it outloud as the film came to a melancholic close: ("Little old girl. I'm gonna miss you but I gotta do it this way. I'll send for both of you when I can. No matter how long it takes. I've gotta see that kid. He's lucky. He'll have you to keep him squared around")
  • she then turned and tenderly mouthed the words as the screen slowly darkened: ("I Love You. Bowie. Bowie")

Film's Opening

Keechie: "I love you. Bowie, Bowie"


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