February 22, 2017


They Drive by Night – 1938 | 80 mins | Thriller, Crime | B&W


Plot Synopsis

They Drive by Night

James Curtis’ novel They Drive By Night was picked up soon after publication, adapted by Derek Twist, and made into a film at Teddington studios. It was favourably received both critically and commercially, the director Arthur Woods was killed later while serving during WWII. A story of wind swept highways, of dingy snack bars, Cockney artisans and canvas is both fascinating and convincing: the low life element has seldom if ever been handled with more naturalness and sympathy whether by directorial treatment or individual portrayal.

Shortie Matthews (Emlyn Williams), the hero, is a small-time criminal released from jail on the very same morning another man is to be hanged. After being coolly received by his former friends, he visits an old girlfriend, only to find her strangled with a silk stocking. Fearing that he will be suspected of her murder, he goes on the run with the assistance of trucker Wally (Allan Jeaves) and after various adventures finishes up far way from London. At a truck stop, he meets another old friend called Molly (Anna Konstam), and later saves her from being molested by a truck driver. Partly because she believes his innocence, partly through sheer exhaustion, the fugitive and Molly return back to London. Molly goes back to her job as a dance-hall girl, where she meets Walter (Ernest Thesiger), an amateur detective who promises to help Molly prove Shortie’s innocence, and who suggests the pair hideout as guests in his own house to avoid the police.

The plan is agreed to and the couple soon find themselves at Walter’s home, Shortie discovers that Walter keeps a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about several strangulation murders, including the one of which he is suspected. Meanwhile, Molly discovers a drawer full of silk stockings and other grisly memento’s of the murders. Knowing his secret is uncovered, Walter attempts to strangle her with a stocking, and upon hearing the commotion Shortie rushes to Molly’s rescue and prevents Walter from strangling her. Having caught the real killer, Shortie gives himself and with his name cleared, he and Molly leave prison just as Walter is about to be executed for his crimes.

Production Team

Arthur B Woods: Director
Basil Emmott: Cinematographer
Jerome Jackson: Producer
James Curtis: Script
Paul Gangelin: Script
Derek N Twist: Script


Emlyn Williams: Albert \’Shorty\’ Matthews
Anna Konstam: Molly
Allan Jeaves: Wally
Ernest Thesiger: Hoover
Ronald Shiner: Charlie
Anthony Holles: Murray

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