Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Overlooked Movies: I Want to Live!

I know nothing at all about the facts of the murder case this movie is based on.  All I know is that in the film, Barbara Graham (Susan Hayward) is portrayed as being completely innocent, having no involvement in the murder other than being present when it happened.  I don't know if she was tricked into admitting that fact by an undercover cop pretending to be her friend, either.  All I know is that Susan Hayward gives a terrific performance, one that had Oscar™ written all over it (and of course she won one).

Barbara Graham is depicted as a woman who loves a good time, a prostitute who falls in with a couple of bad companions and gets involved in a robbery gone wrong.  When the three are arrested, the two men swear that Graham killed the robbery victim so they can get their own sentences reduced.  Graham is sentenced to death.

The last part of the movie is set on Death Row as the preparations for Graham's execution go forward, with Graham claiming innocence all the way.  Protestations of innocence don't do much for convicted killers, and Graham goes to the gas chamber.

When I saw this movie as a kid, I thought it was great.  I didn't know the term "film noir" then, but I'm sure this is one, albeit a late one.  Susan Hayward gives a knockout performance, and the rest of the cast isn't bad, either, though most of them are largely forgotten now.  There's also a jazzy score that was popular at the time.  You can hear some of it in the trailer below.  Gotta love those bongos!


Undine said...

I read about the real-life case some years ago. I don't recall all the details, but I got the impression Graham was a cold-blooded sociopath who was guilty as hell. She managed to win a lot of sympathy during and after her trial by putting on a very good "Oh, poor little me" act.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Loved this one. She could really take it over the top well. And I read the same story as Undine.

Deb said...

I remember seeing this when I was young and being completely freaked out by the realism of that scene in the gas chamber. I'm sure the truth about the real Barbara Graham is somewhere between the movie's view of her as a wrong-place-wrong-time party gal and the stone-cold psychopath Undine read about.

Anonymous said...

Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!

The gang demanded money and the jewels from Monohan, but she refused to give them anything. At this point, Barbara reportedly pistol-whipped Monohan, cracking her skull. They then suffocated her with a pillow.

Hayward did a great job, however.


Bill Crider said...

As I recall, even Hayward thought the real Graham was guilty.

Bill Crider said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron Scheer said...

I remember when this film was in the theaters, but never saw it. In recent years, I've developed an appreciation for Susan Hayward in the several westerns she made. She played tough and beautiful very well.

Anonymous said...

Well sure. Like Barbara Stanwyck she was from Brooklyn.