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John M. Stahl
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
Borrowing Maureen O'Sullivan from MGM, Harry Cohn gave her top billing over Henry Fonda in Let Us Live about a wrongly convicted man on Death Row. There are two wrongly convicted men, Fonda and Alan Baxter both cab drivers. But it's Fonda whose wedding plans get so rudely interrupted when he and Baxter get arrested for a pair of robberies and a homicide that resulted from one of them.
The callousness of the 'system' will really get to you after a while. Fonda and Baxter are picked out of a lineup by victims and they do bear some resemblance to two of the trio of robbers and Fonda who was at the scene of one of the robberies earlier with O'Sullivan said something in a jocular vein that was used against him later. Still when a trio of men committed another armed robbery with fatalities in the same manner it wouldn't have impeded justice any to have issued a stay of execution. At least that's what Ralph Bellamy who was one of the original investigating detectives thinks. But the District Attorney Stanley Ridges wants finality and Bellamy and O'Sullivan have to race against the clock to find the real perpetrators.
Fonda was cast in this film no doubt on the strength of his performance in Fritz Lang's You Only Live Once as a prisoner in a similar jackpot. Later on he would be in Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man in yet another mistaken identity situation. But in Let Us Live with his musings about his situation he reminds me of one of his greatest roles that of Tom Joad in The Grapes Of Wrath who if you remember was also an ex-convict.
But while Fonda muses, the film is taken over by O'Sullivan and Bellamy who are a resourceful pair and enlist the help of some pretty good juvenile detectives to find crucial evidence.
I'm not an opponent of the death penalty per se, but this film shows the callousness that it is sometimes applied and a judicial system devised by man is not perfect. Let Us Live is a real sleeper among the work of Henry Fonda and should be better known.
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