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Although innocent, reporter Frank Ross is found guilty of murder and is sent to jail. While his friends at the newspaper try to find out who framed him, Frank gets hardened by prison life and his optimism turns into bitterness. He meets fellow-inmate Stacey and they decide to help each other. Written by
Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>
Though made in 1939, "Each Dawn I Die" looks more as if it were made in 1935 - it's a Warner Brothers gangster film, the kind they did so many of in the early 1930s. It stars two dancers nonetheless adept at gangster films - James Cagney and George Raft. Cagney plays Frank Ross, a newspaper reporter who uncovers graft but is framed for a crime and sent to prison. His friends on the outside work to get him out but don't have much luck, so he works in the prison twill factory. There he meets "Hood" Stacey, who promises that if Frank will help him break out of prison, he'll find out what happened to Frank and get evidence to clear him. Stacey is brought to court on a murder rap with Frank as the main witness (as planned). Stacey jumps out the courthouse window and escapes in a waiting vehicle. However, when he sees all the photographers there, he figures Frank gave him away and does nothing to help him. The newspaper reports are also a giveaway to the prison authorities that Frank was involved. When he refuses to give up Frank, he is severely punished.
This is a very exciting movie with a great cast, fast-moving and well directed by William Keighley. Besides the two leads, the film features Jane Bryan as Cagney's girlfriend, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom as one of the prisoners and Victor Jory as a corrupt politician. Other prisoners are played by Stanley Ridges, Alan Baxter and Edward Pawley, all very believable.
Both Cagney and Raft are likable, even though Raft plays a mobster. The two have a great chemistry, which goes a long way toward making this film work as well as it does. In a way, Raft has the showier role, but Cagney, a far more versatile actor, has a part of more depth - his character goes from a reporter to humble prisoner to an angry, bitter man.
My one question is, the Cagney character is knocked out and doused with liquor, and then his car is put in drive, killing three people. That is the crime for which he goes to prison. Didn't they do blood tests in those days? Maybe not. And maybe everything was faked since the fix was in. It was one point that bothered me.
The actress Jane Bryan left Hollywood to marry - well, there's no other way to say it - she married Rexall Drugs. She was a very pretty woman and a lovely actress, but Hollywood's loss was definitely her gain!
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