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I Want to Live! (1958) - movie plots

I Want to Live! (1958)

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(8 votes)
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Plot Description
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Directed by
Robert Wise

Written by
Nelson Gidding, Barbara Graham

Susan Hayward, Simon Oakland, Virginia Vincent, Theodore Bikel, Wesley Lau [more]

DVD Release Date
• R1: May 7, 2002

Running Time
2 hours, 0 minutes

Country USA

Studio Figaro Films, United Artists

More info on

Other Titles
• I Want to Live!
• The Barbara Graham Story (1958)

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 Synopses for I Want to Live! (1958)
1.The electrifying Oscar-winning performance by Susan Hayward forms the foundation for the film noir classic I WANT TO LIVE! Hayward plays Barbara Graham, the real-life occasional prostitute and full-time con artist and perjurer who was charged with a murder she claimed she didn’t commit and became the first woman to be executed in the state of California. Based on news articles by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ed Montgomery and letters from the actual Barbara Graham, the film chronicles the year or so before the murder of a wealthy widow and shows Graham’s involvement with con artists Emmett Perkins (Philip Coolidge) and Jack Santo (Lou Krugman), who are also charged with the crime. After trying to break free of the underworld by marrying drug addict Henry Graham (Wesley Lau) and having a child with him, the spunky, good-natured but desperate Barbara leaves Henry and goes back to setting up gambling rings and ripping people off. It’s not long before she and her partners, Emmett and Jack, are arrested for murder, though the film cleverly never shows the actual crime. What follows is a harrowing tale with Graham angrily, then desperately, proclaiming her innocence as she is put through the justice system. With an amazing jazz score by Johnny Mandel and director Robert Wise’s quick pacing and frenetic vignettes, I WANT TO LIVE! is a gripping, tense melodrama.   
(32 votes)

2."Sensational! A picture to shake you…and give you pause!" -The New York Times

Based on a true story, this powerful drama stars Susan Hayward in her Best Actress Oscar-winning performance as a woman condemned by society and the law to a private hell. She plays Barbara Graham, a fast-living party girl who finds herself facing a death sentence for something she didn't do. Framed by the real killer, she is desperate to clear herself.
(32 votes)


Susan Hayward won an Academy Award® for her performance in the compelling 1958 classic I Want to Live! Hayward plays Barbara Graham, a "good-time girl" with a heart of gold and absolutely no instincts about when to drop a bad association. After bouncing in and out of the prison system for a series of petty crimes, Graham suddenly finds herself framed for murder and facing the death penalty. Hayward is simply marvelous, giving a wrenching, complex performance without ever becoming maudlin. Director Robert Wise ratchets the tension up to a nearly unbearable level, making Barbara's moments of hope as agonizing as those of her despair. The film is based on the story of the real-life Barbara Graham, taken from her letters and interviews with reporter Ed Montgomery. Montgomery himself appears as a character, and the film is surprisingly evenhanded about condemning his own role in Graham's conviction. This is definitely a must-see for Hayward fans. --Ali Davis

From the Back Cover
Prostitute, party girl, perjurer, bad-check passer, petty criminal. She's all this and more... but is she a murderer? Susan Hayward won 1958's Best Actress Academy Award® for her "sensational, nerve-shattering performance" (Los Angeles Times) in this harrowing, "must-see" (The Motion Picture Guide) tale that will leave you breathless with suspense.

Arrested for fatally beating an elderly widow, Barbara Graham (Hayward) at first goads the police, refusing to answer their questions. But when an alleged accomplice turns state's evidence, Graham insists that she's innocent. Condemned by the press and the public, Graham is found guilty of murder and sentenced to die in the gas chamber. But as her execution date nears, Graham desperately attempts to expose the truth and save her life against all odds. Fact from the Vault: In addition to winning the Oscar® for Best Actress, I Want to Live! received Academy Award® nominations for Best Director, Screenplay Adaptation, Cinematography (B&W), Sound, and Editing.

(25 votes)

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