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We Who Are About to Die (1937)

Approved | | Crime, Drama | 8 January 1937 (USA)
After he quits his job as an aircraft engineer in New Mexico after an argument with his boss, John Thompson decides to take his girlfriend and move to California. On his way to pick up his ... See full summary »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Steven Mathews
Miss Connie Stewart
John E. 'Johnny' Thompson
Ray Mayer ...
Bright Boy Schultz
Slim Tolliver
'Mac' MacAndrews
Nick Trotti
Tip Fuller
Clyde Beasley
Jerry Daley
M.L. Carter
John Barkley
Joe Donahue
DeWitt Jennings ...
Mike Brannigan


After he quits his job as an aircraft engineer in New Mexico after an argument with his boss, John Thompson decides to take his girlfriend and move to California. On his way to pick up his paycheck he is kidnapped by a criminal gang, who are planning to rob the payroll office at John's former employer. They take his car and one of them wears his coat while holding up the office. During the robbery the paymaster is killed, and a little boy is run over as the gang is escaping. They dump the car and release John, who shortly afterward is arrested and charged with robbery and murder. Despite conflicting evidence and John's protestations that he has been framed, he is convicted, sentenced to death and sent to prison, where he is put on Death Row while awaiting execution. A detective who had helped to convict John now starts to think that maybe he was innocent as he claimed, starts to go back over the evidence and doesn't like what he finds. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama






Release Date:

8 January 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Condemned Row  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Reminds me of the James Cagney picture Each Dawn I Die. See more »


Trail to Mexico (Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie)
Traditional ballad
Sung a cappella by Gordon Jones
See more »

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User Reviews

Classic Prison Drama
21 January 2016 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Every now and then you come across a really great film and wonder why you never heard of it. Probably because it is highly unlikely that we'll ever see a Preston Foster retrospective. And it's because it's from a second level A studio RKO. But We Who Are About To Die is a real undiscovered gem of a film that's extremely relevant today if you are anti-capital punishment.

John Beal is a young ambitious engineer at an aircraft company who feels locked in by the hidebound management of the place and quits and is going to move to California with his girlfriend Ann Dvorak. But some stickup men make him the patsy for a payroll robbery where the paymaster is killed and a little boy rundown in the getaway which was in Beal's car. Sentiment runs high against Beal and the real culprits put him into a very tight frame.

But Dvorak convinces the lead cop Foster that maybe things got rushed in Beal's case. He starts backtracking and comes up with more and more evidence. Of course he's helped by the fact that the head of the gang Russell Hopton doesn't want to split and he starts getting rid of the other gang members.

The prison scenes are truly impressive here. Some of the other cons on death row are Paul Hurst, Gordon Jones, and John Wray. They become convinced of Beal's innocence and in their own way try to help. One at the cost of his life. A real camaraderie develops with these guys facing a common fate.

The legal system riddled with politics isn't treated kindly. We see a District Attorney who's hoping to become governor on the strength of Beal's conviction and a governor who won't grant a stay of execution lest he be thought soft on crime. That certainly should sound familiar in today's world.

We Who Are About To Die is a film waiting to be discovered. Maybe this might lead to Preston Foster revival.

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