|I Want to Live!|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Wise|
|Produced by||Walter Wanger|
|Screenplay by||Nelson Gidding|
|Based on||Newspaper articles and letters|
by Edward S. Montgomery
|Music by||Johnny Mandel|
|Edited by||William Hornbeck|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
I Want to Live! is a 1958 film noir written by Nelson Gidding and Don Mankiewicz, produced by Walter Wanger, and directed by Robert Wise, which tells the true story of a woman, Barbara Graham, an habitual criminal convicted of murder and facing execution. It stars Susan Hayward as Graham, and also features Simon Oakland, Stafford Repp, and Theodore Bikel. The movie was adapted from letters written by Graham and newspaper articles written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ed Montgomery. It presents a somewhat fictionalized version of the case showing a possibility of innocence concerning Graham. Today, the charge would be known as felony murder.
The film tells the story of the life and execution of Barbara Graham (Hayward), a prostitute and convicted perjurer. Graham is the product of a broken home and works luring men into fixed card games. At one point, she attempts to go straight but marries the "wrong man" and has a child. He is a drug addict, and she ends their relationship.
When her life falls apart, she returns to her former professions and becomes involved with a man who had murdered a woman. The police arrest them, and her companions accuse her of the murder to reduce their own chances of going to the gas chamber. She claims her innocence, but is convicted and executed.
A prologue and epilogue contributed to the film by Montgomery characterize the film's content -- which largely portrays Graham as innocent of the murder -- as factual. But there was substantial evidence of Graham's complicity in the crime which included her taped confession to an undercover officer. Hollywood writer Robert Osborne, who later became the host of Turner Classic Movies, interviewed Hayward and asked whether or not she believed Barbara Graham had been innocent.
According to Osborne, the actress seemed hesitant to answer at first, but ultimately admitted that her research on the evidence and letters in the case led her to believe that the woman she played was guilty.
When the film was released, Variety magazine gave the film a favorable review: "There is no attempt to gloss the character of Barbara Graham, only an effort to understand it through some fine irony and pathos. She had no hesitation about indulging in any form of crime or vice that promised excitement on her own, rather mean, terms... Hayward brings off this complex characterization. Simon Oakland, as Montgomery, who first crucified Barbara Graham in print and then attempted to undo what he had done, underplays his role with assurance.
Film critic Bosley Crowther liked the film and wrote, "...Miss Hayward plays it superbly, under the consistently sharp direction of Robert Wise, who has shown here a stunning mastery of the staccato realistic style. From a loose and wise-cracking B-girl she moves onto levels of cold disdain and then plunges down to depths of terror and bleak surrender as she reaches the end. Except that the role does not present us a precisely pretty character, its performance merits for Miss Hayward the most respectful applause."
Gene Blake, the reporter who covered the actual murder trial for the Los Angeles Daily Mirror, and who described how the movie took liberties with the facts, called the movie "a dramatic and eloquent piece of propaganda for the abolition of the death penalty."
By March 1959, Billboard noted that the popularity of the film and of Mandel's and Mulligan's albums "prompted a rush of jazz film scores", and cited the signing of Duke Ellington to do the score for that year's Anatomy of a Murder, the release of The Five Pennies (a biopic about the jazz band leader Red Nichols), and a 1960 documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day.
Other honors The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
|I Want to Live!|
|Soundtrack album by|
UAL 4005 & UAL 4006
|Johnny Mandel chronology|
|Gerry Mulligan chronology|
|Jazz Combo Cover|
The film score was composed, arranged and conducted by Johnny Mandel, but the picture also featured jazz themes performed by Gerry Mulligan's Jazz Combo, and two soundtrack albums were released on the United Artists label in 1958.
Allmusic's Stephen Cook noted, "Johnny Mandel's I Want to Live soundtrack works both as high-end mood music and swinging jazz. ...the most intriguing cuts are those that seamlessly combine jazz, Latin percussion, and strains of Max Steiner's dramatically moody soundtracks ...And as far as murky ambience goes, he delivers some of the best (next to Mancini) ...To help navigate the vast terrain, Mandel enlists a cadre of top West Coast players like trumpeter Jack Sheldon, trombonist Frank Rosolino, reed player Bill Holman, bassist Red Mitchell, and drummer Shelly Manne. And topping off Mandel's original score, ... Gerry Mulligan and Art Farmer's combo interpretations of a handful of Mandel's original themes from the movie (Mulligan and company appear in the movie's bar scenes). One of the best jazz-inspired soundtracks around".
Johnny Mandel's Great Jazz Score:
The Jazz Combo from I Want to Live!:
Johnny Mandel's Great Jazz Score:
On The Jazz Combo from I Want to Live!:
Film director Sergio Leone watched the movie on television when he suffered a fatal heart attack.