Sunday, July 31, 2011

Susan Hayward in "I Want To Live!"

Susan Hayward won the Oscar for playing Barbara Graham in I Want To Live!

I Want To Live! is a magnificent film that I just love - the shady black and white exterior of the jazzy nights of the 1950s are so brilliantly mastered in the film. It actually takes you back to the 50s better then most movies do then most films of the same time tried to do. The true story of real life murderess Barbara Graham who helped assist the murder of a old woman - in reality, Graham was guilty, but in the film, she is largely portrayed as being innocent. The journey of her life as wild woman to desperate prisoner is fantastic.

Susan Hayward plays Graham - she is at first a regular gangster's moll in a world full of jazz music and bongo dancing. Hayward is so incredible in the beginning, yes, she may look way older then her friends but Susan Hayward is the kind of actress who can make this kind of exaggerated acting a thing of mastery. Barbara is in many ways, just a prostitute who falls in with the wrong crowd...if that makes sense. Going from what the movie wants us to believe, she is totally innocent, just associated with the killers, so going on that, Hayward is completely captivating conveying Barbara's innocence.

But, her high point is really when Barbara finally realizes her reality while in jail - she becomes a desperate woman, unleashing all of her anger and frustration onto everyone at any cost. The final moments of Barbara waiting for a call for her execution is the best moments of Hayward's entire career. She took a shrill, extremely unlikeable character (in many different ways) and made her completely engaging with the audience. She can be fun, sad, challenging, terribly loud - but at the end, we fill for her. It's a magnificently brilliant performance that Susan Hayward carries with all the qualities that were exactly required.


dinasztie said...

As expected. I really loved her but she felt a bit off in the beginning for me.

DistinguishedFlyer said...

Blech - she really got on my nerves in this film; at times it almost seemed like a parody of Susan Hayward, though I can see how it played well fifty years ago.