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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.

Tropes featured in this film include:

  • Drugs Are Bad: Barbara's husband is a junkie and a total jerk.
  • Dutch Angle: The bar scene in the beginning is shot this way, to convey an unbalanced and disorienting feeling.
  • Fiery Redhead: While the film is in black and white, a close up of a news article describes Barbara as having red hair.
  • Freudian Excuse: Barbara coming from a broken family is put forward in an appeal for clemency.
  • Girls Behind Bars: Noticeably averted. Barbara being in jail is realistically miserable and isn't played for titilation.
  • 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. The movie makes it seem like she was really innocent, when in reality it was proved that she did murder 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.)
  • Hope Spot: At one point it looks like Barbara will get an appeal, but she doesn't.
  • Inkblot Test: Barbara gets tested by the psychologist like this.
  • Last-Minute Reprieve: Subverted. It was just to give her lawyer a chance to finish his argument, and it only delayed the inevitable.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: The movie makes it seem like Barbara was really innocent, thus making her guilty sentence this.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Barbara's cohorts frame her because they suspect she'd try to frame them.
  • "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; but 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: Barbara's 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.
  • 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.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: It is based on a real-life crime, but as mentioned in Historical Villain Downgrade, it plays fast and loose with the facts; Barbara is portrayed a lot more sympathetically than in real life, making it seem like she was really innocent, when in reality it was proved that she was guilty of murder.
  • Voiceover Letter: Several of the letters Barbara writes are read in her voice.