Two innocent men are wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The fiance of one of them convinces a police detective of their innocence, and together they try to find the real ... See full summary »
Buzz Rickson is a dare-devil World War II bomber pilot with a death wish. Failing at everything not involving flying, Rickson lives for the most dangerous missions. His crew lives with this... See full summary »
Shirley Anne Field
Two innocent men are wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The fiance of one of them convinces a police detective of their innocence, and together they try to find the real killer before the men's execution date. Written by
LET US LIVE (Columbia, 1939), directed by John Brahm, based upon the story by Joseph E. Dinneen, is an underrated melodrama starring Maureen O'Sullivan and Henry Fonda for the first and only time. Being one of many social dramas involving an innocent man, in this instance, two honorable citizens sent to prison for a crime for which they are innocent, LET US LIVE certainly falls into the class of earlier, yet stronger efforts of FURY (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1936) starring Sylvia Sidney and Spencer Tracy, and THEY WON'T FORGET (Warners, 1937) featuring Gloria Dickson and Edward Norris. Even the similar titled, YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE (United Artists, 1937) where Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda star as victims of circumstance, LET US LIVE falls closely to the category of MGM's FURY, but without touches of mob violence and Fritz Lang's dark and tense direction.
As with FURY, LET US LIVE starts off with some light humor, character introduction and plot development before the plot gets underway to the meaning of its title. Set in the town of Springdale, Mary Roberts (Maureen O'Sullivan), a cashier at a local luncheonette, is engaged to marry John J. "Brick" Tennant (Henry Fonda), an ambitious young taxi driver. Prior to their upcoming wedding, Brick buys his own taxi as a start for his new business, Tennant Transportation Cab Company. Because his friend, Joe Lindon (Alan Baxter), is out of work with no place to go, Brick not only offers him his apartment as a place to stay but a job working for him driving his taxi during his off hours. The next day, Brick takes Mary to church, awaiting outside during her time of prayer for her deceased mother. Nearby, a crime is being committed where a watchman is killed in front of witnesses. Three robbers, one of them named Joe (George Lynn), escape in a high speed taxi passing the church. As the chief of police (Henry Kolker) cracks down to solve the latest crime problem, various cab drivers are investigated and questioned, but only Brick and Joe are arrested and identified in a police lineup by key witnesses as the robbers. Regardless of Mary's testimony on the witness stand, the jury finds Joe and Brick guilty, with the judge passing sentence for prison time and execution. It's now up to Mary, with the help of Police Lieutenant Everett (Ralph Bellamy), to work tirelessly proving the innocence of condemned two men before it's too late.
Other members of the cast include Stanley Ridges (District Attorney); George Douglas (Ed Walsh); Philip Trent (Frank Burke); Martin Spellman (Jimmy Dugan); Charles Lane, Clarence Wilson, Harry Holman and Ray Walker.
Although John Braham is no Fritz Lang nor master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, this virtually unknown or forgotten director does provide some good touches of camera angles and dark visuals usually associated with themes of this category. The transformation of Fonda's character during the latter half of the story is realistically done. Of all the Fonda films in his entire career, LET US LIVE happens to be his shortest in length (66 minutes). With situations depicted that could happen to anybody, Fonda would play an innocent man wrongly accused and convicted once more, to better advantage, under Alfred Hitchcock's direction in THE WRONG MAN (Warner Brothers, 1957), another fact-based story. While the Mary role might have been enacted in the usual manner of Sylvia Sidney, who specialized in these character types through much of the 1930s, Maureen O'Sullivan demonstrates her ability in heavy dramatics, showing she's not just Jane from the popular "Tarzan" adventure series she did on her home lot for MGM (1932-1942). Alan Baxter, who began his film career playing a tough hood, breaks away from such type-casting this time around, while Ralph Bellamy assumes the arm of the law rather than the guy who loses the girl as he so often did starting with the comedy, THE AWFUL TRUTH (Columbia, 1937) starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, for which he was nominated as Best Supporting Actor.
Not as well known as Fonda's 1939 20th Century-Fox releases of JESSE JAMES, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN and DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK, overlooking some lack of logic an/or unbelievable coincidences, LET US LIVE is certainly fast-paced, to the point, and holds interest throughout. Aside from numerable cable television broadcasts in past years, Cinemax (1987); Turner Classic Movies and GET-TV (with commercial breaks), LET US LIVE is also available on DVD.(***)
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