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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

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Steven Mathews
...
Miss Connie Stewart
John Beal ...
John E. 'Johnny' Thompson
Ray Mayer ...
Bright Boy Schultz
...
Slim Tolliver
Russell Hopton ...
'Mac' MacAndrews
...
Nick Trotti
Paul Hurst ...
Tip Fuller
Frank Jenks ...
Clyde Beasley
...
Jerry Daley
Frank M. Thomas ...
M.L. Carter
Barnett Parker ...
John Barkley
Willie Fung ...
Kwong
...
Joe Donahue
DeWitt Jennings ...
Mike Brannigan
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Storyline

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

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

Approved
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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

8 January 1937 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Condemned Row  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Victor System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Soundtracks

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

 
The one about the innocent man who is on death row
15 February 2016 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"We Who Are About to Die" is a 1937 film starring John Beal, Ann Dvorak, Preston Foster, and J. Carrol Naish.

John Beal plays John Thompson, an engineer who quits his job at an airplane plant in New Mexico after an argument with his boss. He and his fiancée Connie want to move to California.

En route to get his paycheck, some criminals kidnap him and take his car. They go to John's old job in his car, and one of them is wearing his coat, and enter the payroll office. The paymaster is killed, and a child is run over as the gang escapes. They dump the car.

John is released, but he doesn't stay released for long. The police arrest him for murder and robbery. He is found guilty and winds up on Death Row.

Connie convinces a detective (Preston Foster) who actually helped put John away that he didn't do it, and begs him to try to dig up more evidence. As he starts to go over it, he finds discrepancies.

This is a good pre-noir from RKO. There is a harrowing scene where the prisoners act up and the guards use tear gas on them. There is also a beautiful scene where a priest promises a Chinese man about to be hanged that he will see that his body is sent home to his ancestors.

Some of the detection methods used were brand new at the time.

Beal was a stage actor who appeared in many films, and did lots of TV and stage in his sixty-year career. I met him about 30 years ago - a very nice man.

Thanks to TCM, Ann Dvorak is getting probably more attention than she did during her career. She does an earnest job here as a young woman desperate to free her fiancé. Foster is authoritative and tough as the detective.

This film had its gritty moments and lacked the usual stereotypes and clichés. Some melodramatic moments, as was the style at the time. IF you see this on TCM's schedule, check it out.


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