“I don't love life much, but I don't hate it enough to stick my head in front of a screw's bullet.”
Nineteen thirty-nine was the best year for films in the history of cinema. Major classic films such as Gone With the Wind and the Wizard of Oz were released and other popular classics such as The Women and Dark Victory were also made. In this one year alone over five hundred films were released and to this day they make up ninety-five percent of all American films ever made. Each Dawn I Die is one of those five hundred films to be released in 1939. It does not quite stand up to the others and has been lost in the shuffle over the decades unless you are one of several types of fans of: James Cagney, George Raft, gangster films, or are trying to see as many films from the year as possible. For me I sat through Each Dawn I Die because I am trying to see as many films from 1939 as I can possibly find.
Cagney is a reporter who is trying to help clean up the crime in his city. One story he writes about a known gangster and crook with arms in several pies. While getting his story he finds the gangster burning his records and writes about it for the morning edition. The gangster gets mad and has Frank framed for manslaughter by making it seem like he was drunk and running into a busy area. Frank proclaims his innocence all the way but no one will listen to him that the gangster is the one who planned the whole thing.
Frank goes to a state jail where the inmates are treated horribly. The cops are always beating them if they step one foot out of line or for nothing at all. In jail as well is a crook named Hood Stacey (Raft). Stacey is in jail for life for all his crimes. The crook takes a liking to the reporter after Frank did not rat on him after an incident. Stacey tells Frank he plans on breaking out when he is taken to the courthouse and that in return for not being a rat he will help look for the gangster and get him out of jail.
At the courthouse Frank has called his fiancée and his newspaper to cover the trial. Stacey thinks Frank is not on the level since he called the paper in. Stacey’s lawyer knows he is escaping and so does Frank and he tells his fiancée Joyce to keep in contact with Stacey through the lawyer. When Stacey gets away he is nowhere to be found for five months. He has not been helping Frank since he thinks Frank ratted him. Joyce goes finds him and says that for the five months he has been gone Frank has been getting beaten and thrown into solitary for not talking when he can because he has faith that Stacey will get him out.
Stacey feels bad about what Frank is doing for him. With some new information about the frame up, he decides to go back to the prison to give himself up thinking he got out once he can get out again. Stacey’s plan is to have a riot break out. The plan does not exactly work the whole place become surrounding. Frank is the only level headed one he does not want to be a part of any of the action he wants to live and to get out the right way. The reason Stacey goes back to the jail is because the snitch of the jail was the one who was part of the frame up against Frank. Stacey threatens the snitch into a confession in front of the warden and then kills him.
After the riot and the confession Frank is released.
Ugh, I was so bored with this film. I loved how on the info for this TCM described it as a “jail break yarn” haha. I honestly could not have described it any better. I mean come on, you knew that Cagney was getting out he was the good guy and you knew that since Raft was the bad guy with the heart of gold that he was going to pay for his sins no matter what. The acting was something to be desired. I like Raft and Cagney but neither one of them I felt was that great. I am sure it had something to do with the characters not the actors themselves.
Each Dawn I Die as I said is only a film to see if you like Cagney or Raft or want to see as many films as possible from 1939. Other than those reasons skip it. It is a typical melodrama with a predictable ending.