Clydefro on his filmjournal.net blog has posted an interesting review of They Live By Night (1948) the first feature of director Nicholas Ray, in which Clydefro firmly establishes Ray’s auteur credentials.
While Clydefro’s exploration of They Live By Night is original and penetrating, I don’t quite agree with his take on the noir Outsider:
“Watching They Live by Night, I was reminded of the music of Bruce Springsteen and, specifically, the song “Atlantic City” off his Nebraska album. Both artists were able to locate the pulse of the outsider, someone not particularly special in any way but undeniably American in spirit and attitude. The idea of bettering one’s self and family, even if it means turning to crime or working outside the margins, is a recurring theme in both men’s work. Of course, Ray put his finger on this pursuit some twenty and thirty years before Springsteen.”
To me the persona of the outsider is more complex, and a universal (not parochial) archetype. The outsider is outside bourgeois society and does not share its aspirations, and in the noir genre this is manifested generally but not always in criminality. Ray and Springsteen both share this wider vision: consider Ray’s In A Lonely Place (1950) and Springsteen’s Streets Of Philadelphia.
They Live By Night is one of the 10 films noir released on July 31 by Warner Home Video in the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4 DVD box set.