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I Want to Live! (1958)

A prostitute, sentenced to death for murder, pleads her innocence.



(screenplay), (screenplay) (as Don M. Mankiewicz) | 2 more credits »

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Henry L. Graham
Emmett Perkins
Lou Krugman ...
John R. 'Jack' Santo
James Philbrook ...
Bruce King
District Attorney Milton
Al Matthews
Father Devers
San Quentin Warden
Alice Backes ...
Barbara, San Quentin Nurse
Gertrude Flynn ...


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 Mattias Thuresson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Barbara Graham's Last Scream From Gas Chamber... See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

3 December 1958 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

The Barbara Graham Story  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Director Wise only came on board with the picture after Don Mankiewicz had finished the original script. Wise insisted the old screenplay be thrown out and a new one written, He later disagreed with the Writers' Guild decision to give Mankiewicz co-credit. See more »


When Barbara wakes up screaming from a nightmare, a prison matron comes in shining a flashlight on her. In close-up, the light has a Fresnel-type lens, but in the next long shot, the flashlight has a clear lens. See more »


Barbara Graham: I never even knew the dame.
Police lieutenant: You know she's been murdered, don't you?
Barbara Graham: Yeah. So was Julius Caesar. I didn't know him either.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The movie closes with another disclaimer, before credits: "You have just seen a factual story. It is based on articles I wrote, other newspaper and magazine articles, court records, legal and private correspondence, investigative reports, personal interviews - and the letter of Barbara Graham." Edgar S. Montgomery - Pulitzer Prize winner. San Francisco Examiner See more »


Remade as I Want to Live (1983) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Bravado Performance In Intense Drama
24 April 2005 | by See all my reviews

Barbara Graham was a known prostitute with criminal associates. In the early 1950s, Graham and two men were accused of and arrested for the brutal murder of elderly Mable Monahan during the course of a robbery. Convicted and sentenced to death in California's gas chamber, Graham protested her innocence to the end--and many considered that she was less a criminal than a victim of circumstance and that she had been railroaded to conviction and execution. The celebrated 1958 film I WANT TO LIVE follows this point of view, presenting Graham as a thoroughly tough gal who in spite of her background was essentially more sinned against than sinner, and the result is an extremely intense, gripping film that shakes its viewers to the core.

The film has a stark, realistic look, an excellent script, a pounding jazz score, and a strong supporting cast--but it is Susan Hayward's legendary performance that makes the film work. She gives us a Graham who is half gun moll, half good time girl, and tough as nails all the way through--but who is nonetheless likable, perhaps even admirable in her flat rebellion against a sickeningly hypocritical and repulsively white-bread society. Although Hayward seems slightly artificial in the film's opening scenes, she quickly rises to the challenge of the role and gives an explosive performance as notable for its emotional hysteria as for its touching humanity.

As the story moves toward its climax, the detail with which director Wise shows preparations for execution in the gas chamber and the intensity of Hayward's performance add up to one of the most powerful sequences in film history. Ironically, Hayward privately stated that her own research led her to believe that Graham was guilty as sin--and today most people who have studied the case tend to believe that Graham was guilty indeed. But whether the real-life Barbara Graham was innocent or guilty, this is a film that delivers one memorable, jolting, and very, very disturbing ride. Strongly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.

Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer

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