I Want to Live! [1958]

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

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