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I Want to Live!

4.4 out of 5 stars 131 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Prostitute, party girl, perjurer, bad-check passer, petty criminal. She's all this and more...but is she a murderer? Susan Hayward won 1958's Best Actress Academy AwardÂ(r) for her "sensational, nerve-shattering performance" (Los Angeles Times) in this harrowing, "must-see" (The Motion Picture Guide) tale that will leave you breathless with suspense. Arrested for fatally beating an elderly widow, Barbara Graham (Hayward) at first goads the police, refusing to answer their questions. But when an alleged accomplice turns state's evidence, Graham insists that she's innocent. Condemned by the press and the public, Graham is found guilty of murder and sentenced to die in the gas chamber. But as her execution date nears, Graham desperately attempts to expose the truth and save her life against all odds.

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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Susan Hayward, Simon Oakland, Virginia Vincent, Theodore Bikel, Wesley Lau
  • Directors: Robert Wise
  • Writers: Barbara Graham, Don Mankiewicz, Ed Montgomery, Nelson Gidding
  • Producers: Walter Wanger
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Dolby, Dubbed, Letterboxed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: May 7, 2002
  • Run Time: 120 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000062XEZ
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,234 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "I Want to Live!" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 10, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Barbara Graham was a known prostitute with criminal associates. In the early 1950s, Graham and two men were accused of and arrested for the brutal murder of elderly Mable Monahan during the course of a robbery. Convicted and sentenced to death in California's gas chamber, Graham protested her innocence to the end--and many considered that she was less a criminal than a victim of circumstance and that she had been railroaded to conviction and execution. The celebrated 1958 film I WANT TO LIVE follows this point of view, presenting Graham as a thoroughly tough gal who in spite of her background was essentially more sinned against than sinner, and the result is an extremely intense, gripping film that shakes its viewers to the core.

The film has a stark, realistic look, an excellent script, a pounding jazz score, and a strong supporting cast--but it is Susan Hayward's legendary performance that makes the film work. She gives us a Graham who is half gun moll, half good time girl, and tough as nails all the way through--but who is nonetheless likeable, perhaps even admirable in her flat rebellion against a sickeningly hypocritical and repulsively white-bread society. Although Hayward seems slightly artificial in the film's opening scenes, she quickly rises to the challenge of the role and gives an explosive performance as notable for its emotional hysteria as for its touching humanity.

As the story moves toward its climax, the detail with which director Wise shows preparations for execution in the gas chamber and the intensity of Hayward's performance add up to one of the most powerful sequences in film history.
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Format: DVD
Susan Hayward made no bones about her career goals. She had come to Hollywood in the late 1930's not to become "just" an Actress, but a Star. It took a few hard years of playing supporting roles and minor leads, but eventually her talent and determination won out, and she broke through the ranks and achieved her goal. Having reached the top, she set her sights even higher, stating clearly that she was focused on winning an Academy Award. Her first nomination came in 1947 for the hard-hitting drama "Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman", but she lost to Loretta Young in "The Farmer's Daughter". Hayward would rack up three more nominations (for "My Foolish Heart" in 1949; "With a Song In My Heart" in 1952; and "I'll Cry Tomorrow" in 1955) before she finally hit Oscar paydirt in 1958 with "I Want to Live!"
"I Want to Live!" tells the story of Barbara Graham, a wild party girl with a rap sheet a mile long who was convicted of murder in the early 1950's and executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin Penitentiary. The script whitewashes Graham's story, painting her as a more sympathetic character (i.e., "innocent") than she had been in real life, but Hayward comes through with a gutsy tour de force performance that provides the film with just the right amount of gritty toughness that elevates it out of the league of soap opera. Her Barbara Graham may be a "victim" of circumstances and a flawed legal system, but she is also loud, vulgar, crude, flippant, and antisocial, often working against her own best interests. And Hayward never hits a false note, provoking the audience to a strange mixture of contempt and compassion, repulsion and attraction.
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Format: DVD
A memorable film from the 50's based allegedly on the true story of a woman named Barbara Graham who went to the gas chamber for a murder she swore she didn't commit. As played by Susan Hayward (who won an Oscar), Graham is a party girl and sometime thief/prostitute involved with some very shady small time crooks. An old woman is robbed and killed in the process and the crooks let Graham take the rap. Graham is also the mother of a small child---an angle played up in the press as she waves her son's toy tiger at the cameras. What sticks in your mind, though, are the scenes where she's back and forth from her death row cell to the gas chamber as she waits anxiously for a stay from the governor. These scenes are nerve-racking and make me cry when I watch this movie. Hayward is vivid and believable in these scenes as she is throughout the movie. I recommend this film for people who like watching stellar performances in off-beat films. A fine b&w case study of crime, psychodrama and powerful acting. Don't pass this one up.
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Format: VHS Tape
This film was extolled at the time as "one of the year's top dramas" by Variety. It is based upon the true story of convicted murderess Barbara Graham. In it, Susan Hayward, a beautiful and previously underrated actress, gives a performance that won her the 1958 Academy Award for Best Actress. She plays the role of Barbara Graham, a young woman who went to the gas chamber in California for the murder of an elderly woman who was killed during the course of a burglary/robbery.

Barbara Graham was a beautiful young woman, a graduate from the school of hard knocks. She was an amoral, hard-living party girl, who, together with her friend, Peg (Virginia Vincent) , spent her time boozing and looking for love in all the wrong places. Susan and Peg would both eventually come to a fork in the road that would end up being a crossroad in each of their lives. Peg took one fork and ended up marrying Mr. Right, living a normal life. Barbara took the other fork and began a downward spiral that ultimately would not bode well for her. Barbara had a knack for surrounding herself with those for whom the lowest common denominator was the standard. She ended up marrying Mr. Wrong, and it is no surprise when her marriage heads south. With her marriage on its last legs, Barbara ends up leaving her husband and dropping their baby off to live with its paternal grandmother,

Barbara opts to hang around the wrong crowd, moving in with a former associate who, along with some of his cronies, has just done something very bad. It appears that they killed an elderly woman during a botched burglary/robbery. When all of them, including Barbara, are arrested for this crime, Barbara is left holding the bag, framed by the actual killers for something for which she claims to be innocent.
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