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EACH DAWN I DIE(director: William Keighley; screenwriters: from the book Each Dawn I Die by Jerome Odlum/Norman Reilly Raine; cinematographer: Arthur Edeson; editor: Tom Richards; music: Max Steiner; cast: James Cagney (Frank Ross), George Raft (‘Hood’ Stacey), Jane Bryan (Joyce Conover), George Bancroft (Warden John Armstrong), Maxie Rosenbloom (Convict Fargo Red), Stanley Ridges (Convict Meuller), Thurston Hall (District Attorney Jesse Hanley), Clay Clement (Attorney Lockhart / Stacey’s Attorney), Abner Biberman (Shake Edwards); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jack L. Warner; Warner Brothers; 1939)
“An implausible but enjoyable routine crime drama featuring James Cagney and George Raft.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An implausible but enjoyable routine crime drama featuring James Cagney and George Raft. It’s directed by William Keighley and based on the book by Jerome Odlum; the screenplay is by Norman Reilly Raine. It’s a Warner Brothers social-conscience movie that is done in by the muddled script, blurry moral values and ludicrous climax.

Crusading reporter Frank Ross (James Cagney) uncovers that District Attorney Jesse Hanley (Thurston Hall), who is running for governor, is involved in graft. The unscrupulous politician frames Ross on a drunk vehicular manslaughter charge, where three people were killed, and he receives the maximum twenty year sentence. At the Rocky Point prison Ross meets gang leader Stacey (George Raft), and after a rough introduction they become pals. Losing confidence with the judicial system, Ross becomes a hardened prisoner. Ross goes along with a plan to have Stacey escape, as the hood promises to shake down Shake Edwards. He’s someone who was known to fix things for the crooked politician. Stacey makes a well-planned daring escape in the courtroom, and Ross gets implicated in helping Stacey because he tipped off his former newspaper colleagues what to watch for. After spending five months in the “hole” without ratting, Stacey’s loyal girlfriend Joyce (Jane Bryan) contacts the hood through his lawyer Lockhart and asks why he’s not helping her man as promised. Stacey thinks Ross double-crossed him by involving the reporters, but Joyce pleads her man’s case until Stacey believes Ross is a square guy. Stacey then cooks up a fantastic plan that is so outrageous that it’s impossible to believe for even a second, as he returns to prison and the inmates cause a riot so Stacey can get an inmate to confess, in front of the warden (George Bancroft) being held hostage, that he framed Ross.

It’s hard to doubt the film’s sincerity, the vigorous way it was directed and to marvel at Cagney’s fiery performance, but the film still felt shaky despite all those positives.

REVIEWED ON 11/21/2005 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”