British actress Naomie Harris has been nominated for an Oscar for her role as a crack-addicted mother in the 2016 indie drama Moonlight. "No Small Parts" takes a look at some other roles she's played in her career.
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 »
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
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 »
[noticing that Barbara is wearing a negligee in her prison cell]
I'm sorry, you can't wear that here.
It's too... provocative.
Provocative? There's nothing but dames here! Not a man within miles!
[waving her hand across the bars of her prison cell]
And I've got these for a chastity belt!
Oh, boy, would I love to have somebody to provoke!
It's very foolish to make trouble on your first night, Barbara. I'd advise you to wear the nightgown we provided you.
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This is the story of Barbara Graham, party girl and petty criminal, who was charged, along with two men, in the March, 1953, real life slaying of Mabel Monohan, a wealthy and elderly widow who lived in Burbank, California. Technically, "I Want To Live" is a high quality production. It has excellent B&W photography, superb editing, a jazzy score; and, it features Susan Hayward's Oscar winning performance as Barbara Graham, a young woman portrayed as independent-minded, tough as nails, feisty, defiant, vulnerable, and a good mother.
Both at the beginning and at the end of this Robert Wise directed film the viewer is informed that the story is "factual". But the screenplay never delves into the actual "facts" of the murder. We don't learn anything about the victim, her relationships, the crime scene, or any of a thousand important details that must surely have surrounded this high profile case. Instead, the film focuses entirely on Graham, and goes out of its way to portray her as innocent, in the Monohan murder.
Even a cursory review of available literature suggests that the film, while "factual" in some respects, is fictional in others. For example, in reality, the police did not capture Graham and her two male friends in a warehouse at night, as the film portrays; they captured the three in a seedy apartment in daytime. The film omits her addiction to heroin. In more than one way, the film presents Graham sympathetically, and as a victim of the criminal justice system. There's an interesting story about the film's producer, and his motivations for making this film the way he did.
Nevertheless, I am not convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she was guilty, mainly because I do not have access to the detailed "facts" of the Monohan case. After all these years, the truth regarding the murder has become cloudy, obscure.
It is the thick fog surrounding the real life case that makes the film's final thirty minutes so gut-wrenching, as we await Barbara Graham's fate. Suspense is heightened by a deadline-induced outcome that will either be black or white, all or nothing, but certainly not gray. In setting out to portray a woman wrongly accused of murder, the filmmakers have thus created an ending that is amazingly effective.
"I Want To Live" is a well made Hollywood production with riveting suspense. But keep in mind the film presents only the case for the defense, which may or may not be consistent with the truth.
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