John Brahm

Sog.: from the short tale Murder in Massachusetts (1936) by Joseph F. Dinneen. Scen.: Anthony Veiller, Allen Rivkin. F.: Lucien Ballard. M.: Al Clark. Scgf.: Lionel Banks. Mus.: Karol Rathaus. Int.: Maureen O’Sullivan (Mary Roberts), Henry Fonda (‘Brick’ Tennant), Ralph Bellamy (tenente Everett), Alan Baxter (Joe Linden), Stanley Ridges (procuratore distrettuale), Henry Kolker (capo della polizia), George Douglas (Ed Walsh), Philip Trent (Frank Burke). Prod.: William Perlberg per Columbia Pictures Corp. of California. 35mm. D.: 68’. Bn. 

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

From its crisp cinema-robbery-cumchurch visit to its harshly lit police lineup of suspects and tracking shots on death row, Let Us Live is the most tightly packed of all Fonda features. It is also one of the most pessimistic. In his outstanding book about the actor’s life and work, Devin McKinney describes the “cloak of existential shame” that Fonda wears here, his “nervous, acidulous persona interacting with a modernist sense of defeat. […] Set in a nameless, sunless American city, the film centers on Brick, a hard-boiled cabbie with a devoted sweetheart, middle-class dreams, and a ‘representative’ face. Brick and his friend Joe are erroneously fingered as the perpetrators of a fatal holdup. They’re marched through the legal system, past trial and conviction to the point of execution, before being rescued by chance. The process of justice has been one of scarification, of bad luck canceled by dumb luck”. In terms of its story world, its premonitions of film noir, and as the work of another refugee from Nazi Europe, John Brahm’s thriller shares several aspects with You Only Live Once. In other ways, it looks ahead to The Wrong Man. Except that here, the arc from middle-class ideals to disillusionment (or death, or catatonia) is shaped by more concrete political doubts. Brick’s down-and-out friend talks about his days as a harvest worker in California where surplus wheat and oranges were destroyed while people starve; and Brick’s own faith in the system also goes out the window: “The law can’t admit it’s wrong”. As if to prove this point, when the District Attorney says, “I only did my duty” Brick refuses his handshake.

Alexander Horwath 

Copy From

by concession of Park Circus