I Want To Live! (1958)

If you’re looking for a great movie with a great performance don’t miss this one. Nominated for six Oscars with Susan Hayward winning Best Actress. She absolutely deserved it. It’s the story of the first woman executed in San Quentin’s gas chamber.

Look for future star Jack Weston in a blink and you’ll miss him part in the beginning as a drunk at a party. Towards the end Raymond “Mr.Drysdale” Bailey is the prison warden, Dabbs Greer is a San Quentin Captain and a very quick appearance by Gavin McLeod as a police Lieutenant. John Marley is father Devers.

The movie features a great soundtrack from Gerry Mulligan, Shelly Manne, Red Mitchell, Art Farmer, Frank Rosolino, Pete Jolly and Bud Shank.

Barbara Graham (Susan Hayward) is a party girl who has been arrested over the years on charges ranging from forgery to perjury. After getting out of jail on the perjury charge she’s on five years probation and told not to leave San Francisco.

After a while she goes to L.A.and joins a trio of crooks headed by Emmett Perkins. After making some money she quits the criminal life and marries bartender Hank Graham (Wesley Lau). A year goes by and she has a baby. Hank is a junkie and she has to write bad checks to cover the rent.

Hank walks out and she rejoins Emmett. Also in the gang are John Santo who hates her and Bruce King who comes on to her but is soundly rejected. A crippled widow is murdered in a robbery and the four are arrested.

The cops tell Barbara she’s been arrested on an open charge. She’s tough as nails. In jail she finds out the charge is murder. She says she wasn’t even there when the crime was commited. Her lawyer Richard Tibrow (Gage Clarke) says her alibi that she was home with her husband isn’t good enough. One of the prisoners offers her a chance at an alibi. For some money her boyfriend Ben will say she was with him at a motel.

There’s a terrific trial sequence with the inevitable end but with a number of surprises along the way. Through it all Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Ed Montgomery (Simon Oakland) has been writing stories loaded with purple prose and nicknaming her “Bloody Babs.”

The movie now moves on to the appeals process as Barbara waits on death row. Psychologist Carl Pomberg (Theodore Bikel) believes she’s innocent and even Ed has turned around and is saying so in his stories. Again, this movie belongs on a must see list.

The real Barbara Graham


About vintage45

I'm a big fan of vintage books,movies,TV shows and music. I encourage everyone to patronize your local used book/record store and pick up some of the good stuff. My posts are capsule reviews of some favorites that you may want to investigate. The albums posted aren't really reviews but items from my collection that are still available. I try and point out highlights of each one and let the music speak for itself. Thanks to all for checking out the blog.
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