I Want to Live! (1958)

I Want to Live! (1958), directed by Robert Wise.

Fictionalized account of the true story of a woman's journey from small-time criminal to death row for murder. The history is adjusted just enough to make her innocence plausible; apparently much more so than in reality.

It becomes a capital punishment Message film in the long final segment of gas chamber procedures and details.

It was well-reviewed at the time and since, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, with Susan Hayward winning Best Actress.

I'm out of sync with this one because it seems rather poor to me. I revere Robert Wise and have always liked Hayward, probably from seeing David and Bathsheba (1951) when young, but the whole thing seems phony and overblown to me. Standards of drama and realism change, but I think it is weak compared to other films of the era.

The attempts at portraying a seedy crime-class milieu are just painful, with cool hep-cat jazz convulsives, sweaty reefer-smoking drug addicts and feeble tough-talking cops and robbers.

Whether hard-partying or heist-planning or becoming weepy as a doting mother, Hayward is always just way too much, dreadfully over the top. I couldn't find a moment of honest emotion.

Good jazz score from Johnny Mandel, with some performances by Gerry Mulligan's Jazz Combo.

Available on DVD from Kino.