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Deprived of a normal childhood by her ambitious mother, Katie, Lillian Roth becomes a star of Broadway and Hollywood before she is twenty. Shortly before her marriage to her childhood ... See full summary »
Bo Gillis is running for Governor. Steve writes the speeches, Sylvester runs the campaign and Bo plays the guitar. Everything is going according to the plan until a hooker named Ada is ... See full summary »
Jane Froman (Susan Hayward), an aspiring songstress, lands a job in radio with help from pianist Don Ross (David Wayne), whom she later marries. Jane's popularity soars, and she leaves on a... See full summary »
When he sustains a rodeo injury, star rider Jeff McCloud returns to his hometown after many years of absence. He signs on as a hired hand with a local ranch, where he befriends fellow ranch... See full summary »
Drifter Chance Wayne returns to his hometown after many years of trying to make it in the movies. Arriving with him is a faded film star he picked up along the way, Alexandra Del Lago. ... See full summary »
Barbara Graham is a woman with dubious moral standards, often a guest in seedy bars. She has been sentenced for some petty crimes. Two men she knows murder an older woman. When they get caught they start to think that Barbara has helped the police to arrest them. As a revenge they tell the police that Barbara is the murderer. Written by
Inveterate researcher that he is, Robert Wise was determined to capture every grisly element of an execution for the climax of his movie. He visited San Quentin prison and asked for permission to see the gas chamber and witness an actual execution. After he'd seen it and had his art director photograph it and take measurements for set replication purposes, he was still uncertain about how he would structure the last act. He went back to the prison and made one final request for a detailed account of the entire execution procedure. This is what is painstakingly documented in the movie's climax. See more »
When Barbara's son is brought to the jail for a visit, and the presence of the news media upsets Barbara, she retreats to an interior area of the jail and pounds on the wall in frustration. The "brick" wall gives slightly as he throws her weight onto it. See more »
I Want to Live was a film from it's inception was guaranteed to create controversy. There are all kinds of opinions about the death penalty and it's application all over the world. Barbara Graham's story, so fresh in the minds of the movie going public in 1958, was going to be a source of controversy.
Did she actually kill the widow Monahan? The film cleverly sidesteps that issue in the screenplay. What exactly was Graham's role in the botched robbery? All the people who could actually tell us are dead. Should a woman be subject to capital punishment. Ethel Rosenberg went to the electric chair on less evidence than Graham and for a crime that was not a homicide.
But all these questions aside, there is one absolute in this film. Susan Hayward gave a performance that must have been inspired by the angels. From the first half of the film dealing with her early life, the homicide she was charged with until the second half covering her sentence and her attempts to avoid the gas chamber, Hayward will keep you glued to your seat.
I can't imagine another actress in this part. She of course was the Best Actress for 1958, but in my lifetime only Hillary Swank in her role in Boys Don't Cry was the Oscar ever conceded before the envelope was opened at the ceremony. EVERYONE knew that both Hayward and Swank were winners going in, that's how good both of them were.
Susan Hayward was simply the best at her job. She had a number of great parts in Fifties and a few clinkers at the height of her career. But to get the Oscar for the part that was her signature role, made the ceremonies in 1959 a great occasion.
She's got a good cast of supporting players in I Want to Live, Simon Oakland, Theodore Bikel, Wesley Lau, Phillip Coolidge. But it is Hayward's film totally.
A part like Barbara Graham given to an actress like Susan Hayward only comes along once or twice in a lifetime. Don't miss this one, however you feel about capital punishment.
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