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Friday, April 28, 2017

I Want To Live! (1958)

A hard living "party girl" (Susan Hayward) has been in prison for perjury and is a sometime prostitute. She tries going straight but when her drug addict husband (Wesley Lau) bails on her, she returns to a life of crime. But when her cohorts in crime are arrested on a murder charge, they point the finger to her but she maintains her innocence even when on death row in San Quentin. Based on the the life of Barbara Graham who was executed in 1955 at the age of 31 for her complicity in the murder of a widow during a robbery attempt. The film takes the view that Graham was innocent although the actual facts in the case indicate that while she may not have murdered the widow, she was a participant in the robbery which she emphatically denied. The film works as a piece of anti-capital punishment propaganda. On that level, it's quite effective and the film spares the viewer no detail in the film's harrowing gas chamber execution scene. Hayward won the Oscar for her performance here and it is her best performance. As an actress, she had a tendency to push too hard (think I'LL CRY TOMORROW) but here, she's perfectly cast and gives a genuinely moving performance. With Simon Oakland, Theodore Bikel, Virginia Vincent, Jack Weston, Brett Halsey, James Philbrook, Gavin McLeod and Gertrude Flynn.

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