I'm glad that Susan finally got the Oscar that she deserved more than once..in her career.
It still will never be my favorite Susan film...but ranks in 3rd place on my list. The first being WITH A SONG IN MY HEART...Second...I'LL CRY TOMORROW.
Acting wise...I will always feel her best performance was I'LL CRY TOMORROW..followed by I WANT TO LIVE! and then...WITH A SONG IN MY HEART.
Might sound...stupid...but there are reasons for mixing them up that way, in my viewings of all three films.
Since this was the JANUARY Movie of the Month...I would like to say that I can see no one else able to give the gut-wrenching performance that Susan gave in this film.
I think that the film was shockingly too real for some people to even take. And it gave a real life story (which Susan had a great artistic quality of playing in her career) that was a HOT TOPIC of the times! The first woman sentenced to death in California.
I can always visualize her pretty hands strapped to the chair and how every slight movement she made with them...brought chills up my spine. The camera was not even on her face at that time...and yet she held you captive, with just the slight movement of those strapped down hands.
One of my favorite lines in the film was when they were hiding out in the warehouse and the rotten men asked her what was for dinner...Susan snapped back..
"Champagne and Winter Strawberries!" Putting the man back in his place! She wasn't his cook and maid..No Way!!
It also has one line that I feel is 'out of place' and would have been one of the lines that would have stuck in my throat, as an actor, to EVER think of saying...AND..making it work in the situation it was put in...
Susan and the sailor are talking on the balcony at the wild party..when her girlfriend comes out of the room, toward them....and Susan has to say..straight faced..toward the camera..."Didn't anyone ever tell you to KNOCK before entering a balcony?" (Yeah..I probably didn't even get the line right...but watch it and you will know what I'm trying to say. It was a real bad line to have to deliver!)
The JAZZ score helped the crazy feeling that this film held throughout..with those horns seeming to be screaming out...HELP ME..HELP ME...I..WANT..TO..LIVE!
'I have heard it said'...that Susan studied the Barbara Graham story...the facts about the case..and that she felt Barbara was set-up and innocent of the murder...(BUT>>>Like I said...'i have only heard that..so would not dare to say that it is true or not)
ALL IN ALL...it is the ONLY Susan film that always receives an EXCELLENT star rating. Others, like I'LL CRY TOMORROW always get that 1/2 star less than being PERFECT....so the IN-S and CRITICS have really accepted this film to be her shining star of EXCELLENCE.
To me...it will be the ONE that WON her the OSCAR and there are so many others, that she made, that showed her as not only EXCELLENT...but one of the BEST FEMALE ACTORS in our lifetime.
When you went to see A SUSAN HAYWARD MOVIE...you knew you were going to be getting your moneys worth, if not by the entire film..at least by the leading lady!!
SURE...there is not one actor that I can think of who has had EVERY FILM become a HIT! They all have HITS and MISSES. I have three Susan films that I have never cared that much for...They are..THE MARRIAGE-GO-ROUND, TOP SECRET AFFAIR and THUNDER IN THE SUN. (OH..and I would say THE CONQUEROR..but Susan was still sooo good in that awful thing, that I don't put it into any good or bad film pile. Susan was great in one of the worse messes ever made in Hollywood...but not her fault!)
I'm sure (no..I'm not sure of anything..)but..I feel that I WANT TO LIVE! will be the one film that she will be remembered for. It was the kind of film that has the grit and shock that will continue to stir people's minds.
SUSAN'S death scene in this film has that same type of chilling rememberance that we got from JANET LEIGH in the shower scene of PSYCHO....It is something you just...can't...forget!!
Errol, I watch I Want To Live at least once a year. I'm about a third of the way through for the January film...so slow, and I've had so much going on..but it is a hard film to watch, still it grabs you and Susan's performance was so realistic and I believe ,in the eyes of the critics, it will be her signature film.
It is gritty, harsh, and as you say, the jazz soundtrack adds to the film...creative, wild, and beautiful, as the character of Barbara was herself.
I don't know why, but I cannot find the thread that discussed whether Susan was right- or left-handed. I believe she was right-handed, but for the sake of authenticity and a pertinent plot point, she wrote with her left hand in the film. I believe it was the psychiatrist (Theodore Bickel) who asserts that whoever did the killing was right-handed and that would have excluded Barbara Graham. At least that's what I remember. Sorry I couldn't find the thread.
Jill...in response to Susan being right or left handed, I have been thinking that there may be three movies that I think they show Susan writing...and I have always thought it was left handed...but probably wrong!
The movies would be...TOP SECRET AFFAIR
THE LOST MOMENT
This is just a thought...and may prove to be nothing at all, but I know they have shown her writing in some film before I WANT TO LIVE!
Nice to speak with you again.
Of course my favorite writing scene of Susan's is in "I'll Cry Tomorrow" when she sits down at the desk and tries to write out a check to her mother. Remember? She was so shaky from needing a drink that she had to use her left hand to steady the checkbook. Love that scene for its authenticity. Throughout the movie she uses her right hand (to hold drinks, pore them, etc.) so she definitely was a "righty".
HI Jill....I think you are right! Now that you have mentioned the scene from I'LL CRY TOMORROW....it all makes sense that she was a righty!...
Thanks for bringing up the right-handed vs. left-handed subject. I too wondered about this in I Want to Live, when they showed Susan sitting on her cot in the cell writing to Carl, supposedly with her left hand. It made me wonder if Susan herself was a righty or lefty. Strange that it never occurred to me before!
Another funny thing is that, even though I recall reading that Susan felt Barbara Graham was innocent, I could swear I read somewhere else that she felt Barbara was indeed guilty. I guess we'll never know.
I Want to Live was very difficult for me to watch yet again, as I'm sure it was for everyone else. I think my favorite Hayward line was when the prison matron was coaching her how to sit/breathe/etc. in the death chamber to make it easier for her to go through, and Susan asked, "How would you know?" Who else but Susan could deliver that line that way? I have to believe that some of the dialog in the movie was written for Susan specifically, since my understanding is that she had not read a fully written script before taking on the picture but a treatment. Here again, I wonder if we'll ever know.
Errol, I agree with you that Susan gave an even better performance in I'll Cry Tomorrow and should have won the Oscar for that film. That film just tears me up, especially the parts when she's so far gone into alcoholism and tremors that -- as you said -- she couldn't even write a check to her mother. This, to me, was Susan's absolute peak of performing. It's shameful that Hollywood didn't acknowledge it.