Thieves' Highway

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Thieves' Highway
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJules Dassin
Produced byRobert Bassler
Screenplay byA. I. Bezzerides
Based onThieves' Market
1949 novel
by A. I. Bezzerides
StarringRichard Conte
Valentina Cortese
Lee J. Cobb
Barbara Lawrence
Music byAlfred Newman
CinematographyNorbert Brodine
Edited byNick DeMaggio
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • October 10, 1949 (1949-10-10) (United States)
Running time
94 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$1.5 million (US rentals)[1][2]

Thieves' Highway is a 1949 film noir directed by Jules Dassin.[3] The screenplay was written by A. I. Bezzerides, based on his novel Thieves' Market.[4] The film was released on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection in 2005.


A war-veteran-turned-truck driver Nico "Nick" Garcos (Richard Conte) arrives at home to find that his foreign-born father, a California fruit farmer, has lost his legs and was forced to sell his truck. He learns that his father was crippled at the hands of an unscrupulous produce dealer in San Francisco, Mike Figlia (Lee J. Cobb). Garcos vows revenge.

Garcos goes into business with Ed Kinney, who bought the Garcos truck, and drives a truckload of apples to San Francisco, where he runs into Figlia when his truck is immobilized with a suspiciously cut tire, blocking Figlia's busy wholesale stand, and cannot be towed. Figlia hires a streetwalker, Rica (Valentina Cortese), to seduce and preoccupy Nick in her room while his men unload the apples without Nick's permission. Figlia later pays Nick for his fruit, but that night his goons waylay and rob Nick of the cash. Meanwhile, Kinney is killed when his own truck mechanically fails, veers off the road, and burns after speeding out of control down a long hill. Foul play is suspected. Polly, Nick's hometown sweetheart, then arrives in the city ready to marry him, but leaves disillusioned after she finds him recovering from his beating in Rica's apartment and with no money. Nick and a friend finally confront the cowed bully Figlia at a tavern, and have him arrested, restoring Nick's family honor.



Dana Andrews and Victor Mature originally were announced for the lead.[5]

The film was shot on location in San Francisco, California, and is noted for its accurate depiction of the vibrant fruit and produce market in that city, then located adjacent to the Embarcadero north of the Ferry Building. The Figlia Market is depicted on the corner of Washington and Davis Streets (clearly indicated by a street sign). The produce market was closed and moved to the southeastern part of the city by the end of the 1950s. The warehouses were demolished to make way for the Alcoa Building, and the Golden Gateway residential and commercial development.[6] The Hotel Colchester where Rica resides was located at 259 Embarcadero (now a parking lot). Also depicted is the old State Belt Line Railroad which provided service to the piers and warehouses of the entire Embarcadero.

Some of the outdoor produce market scenes were shot at the Oakland Produce Market, near today's Jack London Square.



When the film was released, New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther said, as a part of a larger review:

"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."[7]


  1. ^ "Top Grossers of 1949". Variety. 4 January 1950. p. 59.
  2. ^ Aubrey Solomon, Twentieth Century-Fox: A Corporate and Financial History Rowman & Littlefield, 2002 p 223
  3. ^ "The 100 Best Film Noirs of All Time". Paste. August 9, 2015. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
  4. ^ Thieves' Highway on IMDb.
  5. ^ METRO ACQUIRES 'BODIES AND SOUL': Studio Buys French Novel for $40,000 -- Hodiak Gets Role in 'Command Decision' By THOMAS F. BRADY Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 01 Apr 1948: 29
  6. ^ Golden Gateway, DOCOMOMO
  7. ^ Crowther, Bosley (1949-09-24). "THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; 'Thieves' Highway,' One of Best Melodramas of the Year, Opens at the Roxy". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-01-15.

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