From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
No question back in the late 1940s, and now too for that matter, the plight of the independent owner-operated trucker was tough. Long hours, high fuel prices, stale coffee and cakes, all made worst if one was dependent on the weather or delivered perishable time-sensitive commodities. That is why in the 1930s and 1940s leftist truckers from Minneapolis and guys like Jimmy Hoffa (the father) tried to organize these types into the Teamsters’ Union. Not everybody got the message or had the opportunity to join as was the case with the trucker, Nick (played by Richard Conte), out in the Frisco town area in the film under review, Jules Dassin’s Thieves' Highway.
The plotline is simplicity itself (the real plus here is the photography and the role of the vibrant streetwalker Rica, played by Valentina Cortese). Nick returned from war expected to settle down to a white picket fence existence with his fiancée. Problem is that Nick’s father, a farmer, was a victim of a cockroach capitalist produce market honcho, Mike (played by Lee J. Cobb), who crippled him up. Nick vowed to make things right against this bad guy. And after a series of up and downs; selling produce at a good price: shacking up with a streetwalker with a heart of gold; being robbed on Mike’s orders of the proceeds, being dumped by his white picket fence-loving fiancée; and, finally giving Mike his just rewards he does avenge the family honor. And then sets up house with the streetwalker with the heart of gold (maybe not white picket but a house) as they trail off into the sunset together.