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Film / I Want to Live!

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I Want to Live! is a 1958 Film Noir directed by Robert Wise, based on the (sort of) true story of Hooker with a Heart of Gold Barbara Graham and her failed endeavor to give up a life of crime, ultimately ending up on trial for murder.

According to The Other Wiki, the movie was adapted from articles and letters written by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Ed Montgomery, who is also a character in the movie. Consequently, the film mercilessly satirizes the media and its tendency to treat truth as a secondary priority to entertainment, and the disastrous consequences it can have in regards to the legal system.

Other than that, best known for the fact that it earned actress Susan Hayward an Oscar for Best Actress in the starring role.



  • Drugs Are Bad: Her husband is a junkie and a total jerk.
  • Dutch Angle: In the bar scene in the beginning, to convey an unbalanced and disorienting feeling.
  • Fiery Redhead: It's in black and white, but a close up of a news article describes her as having red hair.
  • Hard on Soft Science: When Barbara is told that a man who came to see her is a psychologist, she says, "That's his problem."
  • Historical Villain Downgrade: Barbara is portrayed a lot more sympathetically than in real life. In reality she murdered Mabel Monohan pretty much just For the Evulz when she turned out not to have the jewels she was looking to steal (this is why she got the death penalty in the first place.) Whereas the movie makes it seem like she was really innocent.
  • Hope Spot: She doesn't get an appeal.
  • Inkblot Test: She gets tested by the psychologist like this.
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  • Last-Minute Reprieve: Triple Subverted. It was just to give her lawyer a chance to finish his argument, and it only delayed the inevitable.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: At the beginning and the end, signed by a Pulitzer winning reporter who covered the real life story.
  • Paparazzi: The tabloids are all over the trial, and are clearly more interested in entertainment than the truth. We even get a warning not to believe everything we read, and Babs gets to give them a "The Reason You Suck" Speech after she's sentenced.
  • Precision F-Strike: When someone asks her what it feels like to hold her child and know she's going to be executed soon, she says, "How the hell do you think it feels?"
  • Product Placement: Possibly unintentional instance, given that at the time, this was not an established practice; there is a close up on the General Electric logo on a clock.
  • Really Gets Around: Subverted in regard to Barbara: A guy says he thought that there was "no such thing as not your type," and she says, "Till I met you." Zing!
  • Silence Is Golden: At the end, Ed turns off his hearing aid and all the noise around him disappears.
  • Singing in the Shower: Barbara does this, even though she's not alone. It's prison, after all.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Well, it was The ’50s.
  • Strawman News Media: Type 4 — all entertainment, no truth.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Her cohorts frame her because they suspect she'd try to frame them. Lots of truly guilty people get off for helping to build the case against her. See Miscarriage of Justice above.
  • Title Drop: In a letter voiceover.
  • 20 Minutes into the Past: Not so much anymore, but it takes place in 1951 even though it was made in 1958.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: A minor one where the bartender lets her know a man trying to pick her up is really a cop, as well as the reveal at the trial that the man who promised to perjure himself to get her off was a cop, too.

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