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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
According to The New York Times review, the title of Joseph F. Dinneen's story was "Murder in Massachusetts," but it was not mentioned in the credits because of a vague threat by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which did not wish any implication of inefficiency of its police, prosecutor or court system. The story was based on the fact that two taxicab drivers were identified by seven of eight witnesses as two of the three men who murdered a man during a 1934 theater robbery in Lynn, Massachusetts. Their trial was in progress for two weeks when the real killers were captured in New York City and confessed; the taxicab drivers were released and two of the three criminals were eventually executed. See more »
Maureen O'Sullivan and Henry Fonda star in "Let Us Live," a 1939 film also starring Ralph Bellamy. Fonda plays a cab driver engaged to O'Sullivan. He and the friend who is staying with him are arrested for a robbery/murder after being identified by witnesses in a lineup. They are convicted at trial and sentenced to death.
It falls to the investigating detective on the case (Bellamy) and O'Sullivan to work to clear the two men. Meanwhile, the two innocent men rot in jail with the clock ticking quickly toward execution.
This has to be the fastest trip to the gas chamber in history - we've all read the stories of people languishing on death row for 18 years. It seems like these guys only had a couple of weeks before their execution date.
The idea behind this film, though, is solid: The police believe they have the perpetrators, the DA doesn't want anything rocking the boat (even a similar robbery while the two men were in prison), and refuses to stay the executions.
I can never get over how much Jane Fonda looks like her dad when I see Fonda in early films. He gives an excellent performance here, that of a bitter, angry man convicted of something he didn't do. I always felt that Fonda as an actor became more internalized as he aged - I prefer the more emotional performances of his. O'Sullivan is energetic and determined as his fiancée, and Bellamy is good in the supporting role.
A dark, sobering film about the dangers of rushing to judgment.
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