RARA-AVIS: Thieves Market (noir novel); Thieves Highway (Hollywood film)

From: Jay Gertzman ( jgertzma@earthlink.net)
Date: 06 Jan 2006

Bezzerides' _Thieves Market_ is one of the best hard-boiled novels about working class men in the years after WWII. _Thieves Highway_, directed by Jules Dassin, was written by Bezzerides, and is a renown noir film. The story line is similar, but the ending of the film is significantly modified. *Spoilers* The racketeering produce distributor, Mike Figlia
(Lee J Cobb) is taken into custody by the cops, who tell Nick (Richard Conte) that he should leave justice to the authorities (the good guys). After all, this is America and the goods guys always get the bad guy. Now Nick can marry the girl. Interestingly, that girl is not the pretty blonde princess, who turns out to be innocent and small-town mercenary. It is the Italian immigrant prostitute Rica who is his natural mate
(quite a change from the novel). They drive off in Nick's army-surplus truck to be married as his pal truckers wish them well. It's a fine film with wonderfully lit scenes from the SF produce terminal, where the working day begins after midnight, where smoky fires in trash cans keep the workers warm, and where a belligerent cacophony of sweating men's catcalls split the floodlit darkness. You can feel the tensions and edginess of guys hoping to get a square enough deal to feed their families, and not above making their own profits by undercutting their buddies.

The writer groused about the changes the studio wanted. IMHO, they un-noired the story! In the novel, Figlia's power is undisturbed, and Nick (who financed his truck with funds stolen from his mother) seems to be about to take what he can get for the apples spilled over the field where his partner crashed and burned. The struggle broke his dead father's will (in the film his dad lost his legs but not his will, and Nick gets back at Figlia in his dad's name). In the novel, events have broken the pride and honor of Nick and a hard-bitten trucker who, because he too has to eat, convinces Nick to go and collect the apples. The windup: Nick grimly navigates his truck down the thieves' highway, as he probably will do for years to come.

The film's drive-by-night scenes are wonderful. But damn it, how can it be noir, with justice being done, crime not paying, and Nick marrying the sexy sultry as his buddies cheer? It's about as noir as Bogart and Bacall's _Big Sleep_ or _Dark Passage_. Shouldn't there be another term for such films to distinguish them from ones such as _Chinatown_,
_The Asphalt Jungle_, _The Killing_, _Detour_, or _Odds Against Tomorrow_?

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

RARA-AVIS home page: http://www.miskatonic.org/rara-avis/
  Yahoo! Groups Links

<*> To visit your group on the web, go to:

<*> To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:

<*> Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to:

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 06 Jan 2006 EST