Henry Fonda and Maureen O'Sullivan in Let Us Live (1939)


(director: John Brahm; screenwriters: story by Joseph Dinneen/Anthony Veiler/Allen Rivken; cinematographer: Lucien Ballard; editor: Al Clark; music: Karol Rathaus; cast: Henry Fonda (Brick Tennant), Maureen O’Sullivan (Mary Roberts), Ralph Bellamy (Lieutenant Everett), Alan Baxter (Joe Linden), Stanley Ridges (District Attorney), Henry Kolker (Chief of Police), Martin Spellman (Jimmy), Philip Trent (Frank Burke), Peter Lynn (Joe Taylor), George Douglas (Ed Walsh); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Perlberg; Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia Pictures); 1939)
It’s one of those familiar race against time thrillers to save an innocent man from the electric chair.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A weepie dark crime drama, that comes with an upbeat ending. It’s one of those familiar race against time thrillers to save an innocent man from the electric chair. Veteran German director John Brahm(“The Brasher Doubloon“/ “The Locket”/”The Mad Magician”) sought asylum in America during the Hitler days, and had success as a Hollywood studio director. Brahm does a good job with the material. It’s based on a story by Joseph Dinneen and is written by Anthony Veiler and Allen Rivken. The bureaucratic DA is vilified for not lifting a finger to help a possibly innocent man who wants to present new evidence to clear himself. Brahm makes it clear that those in charge of enforcing the law can at times be so arrogant that they can’t admit they’re ever wrong.

Ambitious nice guy taxi driver Brick Tennant (Henry Fonda) is arrested on murder charges, on the day he plans to marry the waitress Mary Roberts (Maureen O’Sullivan) and move into a new house. The DA (Stanley Ridges) uses circumstantial evidence and the testimony of the eleven eyewitnesses, at the theater crime site of the robbery and watchman murder. They ID the innocent Brick in a lineup. Brick’s hard-luck friend and new business partner Joe Linden (Alan Baxter) is also arrested for the murder. When convicted and set to die in the electric chair, the supportive Mary at the 11th hour gets the help of Lt. Detective Everett (Ralph Bellamy). He defies orders to reopen the case and gets suspended. Despite the new evidence presented by Mary and Everett, the execution is set to take place. But when a neighborhood kid (Martin Spellman) locates the hopped-up cab used in the robbery and it’s not Brick’s cab, the execution is stopped by the DA at the last minute.

A good performance by Fonda, excellent b/w noir photography by the great cinematographer Lucien Ballard and taut direction by Brahm, keep the melodrama compelling.


REVIEWED ON 10/16/2014 GRADE: B-