(ag) wrote: "I Want to Live!" is a great movie that has got an eerie feeling to it that I cannot place my finger down exactly. It is based on a true story, as is repeated often enough, namely on court records, witness's interviews, correspondence between the real characters, etc, etc, and so there is a down-to-earth sting to it. But at the same time, the editing style, the fluent jazz music and the overblown central performance by Susan Hayward (who won an Oscar for her role), gives the movie a sort of dream-like state, of fable one might say, especially in the first two thirds of the picture. This is directed by Robert Wise, who had steadily ascended from horror/sci-fi films to more emotional dramatic ones (and before dangling with the 2 musicals which won him 4 Oscars: "West Side Story" (1961), and "The Sound of Music" (1965)). His earlier career as an editor (for example in Orson Well's "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942)), may help explain the fast pace the movie has at the beginning. We see sketches of Barbara Graham's life (Susan Hayward), a witty woman from the wrong side of the tracks that spends her time in sleazy joints with shady characters, doing what she wants with whom she wants. The movie quickly passes from episode to episode, from year to year, but the various scenes help us understand her character. She is carefree and is little preoccupied with the consequences. She lies, forges cheques, and has been several times in correctional facilities for minor offences. But then she decides to get it straight, and marries a bartender, who turns out to be a drug addict, but with whom she has a son. On one fatal night when she argues with her husband and he disappears, she goes to meet her friends at the bar, who have been planning a robbery. After, she meets them again and is with them when they are caught. They have killed an old lady while robbing her house. Both man put the blame on Barbara to try to beat the raps, and she, without an alibi and with a very bad past, is an easy pray for the police and lawyers. And then the movie slows down, as her trial and jail time are shown, until she is finally convicted and sent to die in the gas chamber. This is Susan Hayward's movie. All other actors; lawyers, journalists, priests, criminal guards and other criminals just revolve around her, but we don't care really. We just look at her. At the time, the case was fresh on the public's mind, so there is no surprise of whether she will be pardoned or not. We know that she will die at the end of the movie, but that doesn't take the interest of the human performance of this woman who was a bad character, but who is innocent of this charge and just cannot escape the system that was dead set against her. The peak of Hayward's career, "I Want to Live!" is many things. It's a story of a very strong character whose only flaw in her strongness is her love for her young son, that does not break even in face of the many wrongs done against her, but as the time of death approaches yields little by little. It's a stand against the justice system and the death sentence, given in a cold straigh-forward-way. And it's also a stand for the innocent victims, and how the system does not let someone's past be forgotten. Wise's direction and editing give it that strange feeling I talked about for 1h30, but create a gripping masterpiece on the last 30 minutes, which depict the last hour of the prisoner, and every procedure in the prision. I don't think that Hayword's performance is better than Elizabeth Taylor's in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", also nominated that year for the Oscar, but we all know the Academy's tendency to reward people playing real characters. Even so, it is a great performance, slightly overblown, and is, in its essence, the movie itself. That's the greatest complement I can give. "I Want to Live!" is more than anything a social stand, as relevant today as it was then.