Coffee, Tea, or Me?
|They got legs and know how to use them|
|Yer carpet don't match yer drapes, honey....|
Wise gave us Crime Noirs Born to Kill, The Set Up, The Captive City, and you can look at Odds Against Tomorrow as either the last Classic Noir or one of the first Transitional Noirs. He also gave us a SiFi Noir The Day The Earth Stood Still, and a Western Noir Blood On The Moon. Wise also did a Quasi Bio Noir in 1956 about the life of Boxer Rocky Graziano titled Somebody Up There Likes Me, check it out if you get a chance, it's got quite a few noir-ish sequences though it doesn't quite tip Noir, its one of those "On the Cusp of Noir" Noir.
Cinematography by was by Lionel Lindon (The Blue Dahlia (1946), Quicksand (1950), The Turning Point (1952), Hell's Island (1955), The Scarlet Hour (1956), The Big Caper (1957), The Young Savages (1961), All Fall Down (1962), The Manchurian Candidate (1962)) and the Jazz Music was
by Johnny Mandel.
|Susan Hayward as Barbara Graham|
All That Jazz
|Passing a joint|
|Taking a hit|
Barbara was born in 1923 in the "Detroit Of The West, Oakland" California. It was in one of Oakland's ghetto/slum areas either Old Downtown or West Oakland, possibly around 7th Street or maybe near what is known today as "Dog Town" aka North of Clawson or "Ghost Town" along Hoover & Foster at that time populated with diverse ethnic groups that were eventually displaced by Afro-Americans.
|Old Downtown Oakland|
Barbara was the unwanted baby of a knocked up teenage hooker Hortense Wood (ne Ford). So her mother goes out pullin' tricks and suckin' dicks for a livin, and either Barbara went with her or was getting dumped off, we can guess, with not the most ideal caregivers.
"Years later, Barbara would tell a reporter that she was certain her mother didn't care whether she lived or died "as long as I didn't bother her."" (Mara Bovsun)
When Hortense got busted and shipped off to the State School for Girls in Ventura, Barbara was passed around between family, sleaze ball acquaintances and fellow hookers. When mom gets out she soon gets another bun in the oven, followed nine months after that by yet again another. When Barbara reaches 12, a social worker offers to adopt her. Hortense tells her to basically fuck off.
|Ventura School For Girls|
Barbara becomes a wild child herself. She eventually gets shipped off to Ventura school for girls also. When she gets out 16 at she becomes a child bride marrying a coastguardsman. She tries going straight by enrolling in a business school. She has two sons but it doesn't work out. Hubby is awarded custody of the boys.
Sexually active now, Barbara eventually works her way down to selling her ass on street. Like mother like daughter. By 18, she's strolling the pavement around the harbor trolling for sailors then after 1941 expanding to Navy seamen from the Oakland Naval Supply Depot.
She was a "Sea gull" providing the mid service of the popular "Stewed, Blewed, and Tattooed," phrase. No different than future movie stars Norma Jean Baker (at 14 BTW) aka Marilyn Monroe or Liz Rene. Rene referred to her servicing the service men as being a "V" girl.
During the next eleven years Barbara was married and divorced three times, was arrested numerous times for prostitution, pandering, lewd conduct, vagrancy, grifting, and perjury. Its in 1950 where I Want To Live picks up Barbara's story.
Like a good little seagull she heads to the next nearest lucrative port, San Diego. There she gets her groove back and mingles with the other denizens of the underworld.
|Philip Coolidge as Emmett Perkins|
|Wesley Lau as Henry "Hank" L. Graham|
Hank and Barbara like what each other sees, she marries him, gets quickly "preggers" again and has a son Tommy. She also gets hooked also on horse (the film leaves out this detail). Hank looses his job and starts to bum off Barbara.
In reality Barbara leaves Bobby with junkie Hank and moves in with Emmitt. functioning as a friend with benefits. Perkins has other nefarious plans besides just running an illegal card game. Perkins with two bit hoods John Santo, and Bruce King (all box men BTW), get, wind of a feeble old Beverly Hills widow, Mable Monahan, who is rumored to have a wad of cash in her house. The cash, 100 Gs, is part of the winnings that her son in law, a Las Vegas gambler, left her.
In the film, the police bust the the illegal gambling operation while Barbara is there. Under questioning during the police investigation Barbara is shocked when accused of being an accomplice to the Monahan murder.
The states case version goes that Perkins asked Barbara to be an accomplice because they figured that Mable would easier open the door for a woman. They say that Barbara claimed to have car trouble and needed to use the phone. Mable opens the door and lets her in, the crooks push in and Mable starts shrieking. To shut her up, they say, that Barbara pistol whipped her, getting a bit carried away. If they were all users, and if say Barbara was in desperate need of a fix you can realistically see it going down that way.
The police pull in Shorter first on another unrelated job. He squeals about the details of the Monahan murder. They let him go. Through the grapevine Perkins, Santo, and King get the low down on the stoolie Shorter and Shorter disappears from the face of the earth.
The police round up the other suspects and luckily for them John True spills the beans on the whole story for immunity.
Barbara denies the John True version of what went down, but she is incarcerated while awaiting the trial. She is put in a cell with a Donna Prow. They both go "lez" while in stir and get into a bit of "tongue in groove" action with each other. Gils got to do what girls got to do. When Barbara confides in her that she doesn't have a good alibi for the night Mable was killed, Donna tells her that he has a friend, Ben Miranda, who will say that he was with her at the time of Monahan's murder.
At the trial the friend turns out to be an undercover cop, who takes the stand against her. Donna got a reduced sentence for setting up the ruse.
Barbara, Emmitt, and John get sentenced to death in the gas chamber.
In the film Barbara claims that she was at home with Bobby and Hank. But Hank is too strung out and on the stand the jury will not believe a dope addict, so desperate, she agrees to Donna's plan to have Ben give false testimony. While Ben is visiting with Barbara at the prison, he insists that she admit that she was part of the caper before agreeing to give a false alibi, he makes a recording of their conversation. Now quite desperate, Barbara agrees.
During the trial, the taped recording of her confession, made by Ben during their meeting, is used as evidence against her. Barbara explains that she sought the phony alibi only to avoid the death penalty, and that her admission was false.
The rest of the film focuses on the trial, psychological evaluations, attorney strategies, the events leading up to Barbara's execution, her conflicts with the prison matrons and guards, the morbid workings of the death chamber, rituals of an execution, and the efforts of a crusading reporter to point out and publish the holes in the states case. For instance, Mable was bludgeoned to death by a right handed person while Barbara is left handed.
Knowing what we know now with the recent prevalence of police bodycams and cellphones who knows how much more bullshit went on back in the day or how any poor innocent shmucks got railroaded.
The excellent cinematography provides a crisp photojournalistic look to the film. A Jungle Jazz/Beatnik zeitgeist prevails in a haze of tobacco and marijuana. Drunks, potheads, junkies, high rollers, low renters, winners and tragic losers are depicted realistically. Susan Hayward shines as she dominates all in an Oscar winning performance. 9/10
The real Barbara below