Thieves’ Highway par Bosley Crowther

Thieves’ Highway par Bosley Crowther

24 septembre 1949. Il gèle à pierre fendre. Le passant cinéphile à les plus grandes difficultés à rester debout sur les trottoirs glissants de Broadway. Et pour couronner le tout, on attend d’importantes chutes de neige. Dérèglement climatique ? Que nenni, cela n’existe pas au pays de l’Oncle Sam! Tout cela est de la faute de Bosley Crowther qui vient de sortir un papier dithyrambique sur le dernier Jules Dassin, Thieves’ Highway.

Critique d’époque :

« You’d never imagine what a fellow has to go through to earn a buck in the supposedly mundane business of trucking fruits and vegetables – not, that is, until you’ve witnessed the pounding an honest truckman gets in Twentieth Century-Fox’s Thieves Highway, which came to the Roxy yesterday. Then, we feel sure, you will never be able to eat an apple or tomato again without calling up visions of trickery, mayhem, vandalism and violent death.

For here, in this vigorous dramatization of one full day in a truck driver’s life, writen by A. I. Bezzerides and directed by Jules Dassin, is pictured in images so vivid and so brutal that they will root in your mind a truly amazing demonstration of what goes on in the produce world. And here, furthermore, in this exposure, which is stunningly played by a top-form cast, is one of the best melodramas – one of the sharpest and most taut – we’ve had this year.

Maybe, of course, every truckman doesn’t run up against the sort of thing that hard-boiled, two-fisted Nick Garcos encounters in the market of this film. And maybe there aren’t too many merchants in the produce business anywhere who are as vicious and cruel in their dealings as is Figlia, the villain herein. Certainly, we’d hate to think so, for Figlia is a scoundrel triple-dyed, and the treatment he gives to Nick Garcos could not be generally endured.

It isn’t enough that this rascal should have crippled and fleeced Nick’s old man, a mild little vegetable trucker from Fresno, in the California plain. No, when Nick himself rolls to San Francisco with a borrowed truck loaded high with the year’s first Golden Delicious – a perilous coup, in itself – what does this Figlia do but mark him for a sap and go to work.

He tries to buy the load for peanuts, he has his men damage Nick’s truck, he hires a siren to lure the youngster and then he sells the whole load for plenty of coin. And, when Nick makes him level with all the money, after a mighty brave show of steel-rimmed spunk, he sets footpads on the truckman and gets back the money anyhow.

Oh, this Figlia is a beauty – and, as played by Lee J. Cobb, he grows on the screen to the full dimensions of a believable rascal of the business world. But Nick Garcos, played by Richard Conte, is able to match him trick for trick. Tough-fibered, razor-sharp, laconic – he (or Mr. Conte) is superb. So, too, is Valentina Cortesa, a smooth new actress from Italy, who plays the professional siren with tremendous fluency and feminine charm. A role which could have been banal is made adult and intriguing by her. Nor should we neglect Millard Mitchell, Jack Oakie and Joseph Pevney in lesser roles as muscular, hard-bitten truckmen – nor, for that matter, all the cast.

But particular thanks for this crisp picture should go to the Messrs. Bezzerides and Dassin for their keen writing, well-machined construction and sharpness of imagery. Once again, Mr. Dassin, who directed The Naked City, has gone forth into actual settings for his backgrounds – onto the highways and the city streets, the orchards and teeming produce markets of California and San Francisco. He has got the look and « feel » of people and places in the produce world. You can almost sense the strain of trucking and smell the crated fruit. More than that, he has got the excitement and the tension of commerce today. Thieves Highway is a first-class melodrama which just misses – yes, just misses – being great« . Par Bosley Crowther pour le New York Times.

Richard Conte, Barbara Lawrence

Bosley Crowther doit aimer faire son marché. Et doit s’être retrouver dans Thieves’ Highway pour qu’il se sente obligé de pondre un article aussi élogieux à propos d’un film appartenant à un genre qu’il n’apprécie qu’en de très (très) rares exceptions. Il loue la qualité de l’écriture, l’efficacité de la réalisation, le sublime de l’interprétation. Pour lui tout y est parfait.

Pour découvrir mon avis qui rejoint celui de Bosley Crowther, c’est par ici.

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2 réflexions sur « Thieves’ Highway par Bosley Crowther »

  1. Earle Schecter from the group Film Noir Addicts Anonymous : « Good movie. I always wondered why Richard Conte, who I thought was a good actor, never chose better acting roles ».

  2. George Broze from the group Film Noir Addicts Anonymous : «  »You can almost sense the strain of trucking and smell the crated fruit. »
    Well, that will put people in the seats!

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