I Want To Live! Is a film-noir from 1958 that looks at a story that ended a few years earlier in 1955. This is the story of real life criminal Barbara Graham. known as “Bloody Babs” in the press, Graham was a career criminal and was a known prostitute earlier in life. She kept bad company and is said to have helped break into a house with 3 men to rob a wealthy older women in a wheel chair. They ended up murdering her and were then arrested. Some say this movie is pretty true to fact, but general consensus is this is a highly fictionalized portrayal.
The reason I got to see this movie is it is 28 Days of Oscar on TCM and this is on because of Susan Hayward’s great performance. She not only won the Best Actress Award in 1959, she also won the Golden Globe and New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
When Hayward signed on for this movie it wasn’t because she loved the script or thought it was going to be a great film. She did it to help out Producer Walter Wanger, Wanger was instrumental in starting Hayward’s career in film. Wanger was making a comeback in film at the time because he had just got out of jail for shooting a man who was having an affair with his wife. It was quite the scandal and Wanger had to reinvent himself. Hayward was glad to help him.
This film is directed by Robert Wise one of the greatest directors in Hollywood history and directed many classic films in his long career. Though Wise was never known as a film-noir director, he does a great job in this movie. The off-center angles at the beginning are amazing and prison scenes are very well done. Robert Wise really prepared well for this film, especially doing a lot of research to get the execution scene right. The way this scene is shot, edited and doesn’t use music, but keeps it very silent and sparse is amazing. The end of this movie takes this film to another level. This movie and Barbara Graham’s real life case went a long way in helping the anti-death penalty cause in California. This doesn’t have your normal twists and turns we are used to in classic film-noir, but it is very dark and startling.