Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Let Us Live (1939)

Have you ever seen Henry Fonda in Hitchcock’s Wrong Man? If you have then you should already know the plot to Let Us Live. And like Hitchcock’s film Let Us Live is based off a true story of wrong eye witness testimony and poor man put through the wringer.
            Brick Tennant (Fonda) is a good honest man with a loving fiancé named Mary (Maureen O’Sullivan). They both work very hard, he is a taxi driver looking to expand his business with a new cab and she is a waitress at a local diner. One night Brick and Mary go to a car dealership to pick out a new cab. The police have a display of the guns they used next to a police car and Brick casually mentions how the guns could be used in a hold up. Well, three robbers have the same idea and when the dealership closes they come out from their hiding spots and steal the cab and the guns.

            The next day Brick takes Mary to church. He waits outside while she says her prayers. At the same time a movie theater is held up by the three robbers and one man is killed. They speed away in the taxi. The police eventually track down Brick to bring him in for questioning and for the eye witnesses to see if he is part of the robbers. Brick’s friend Joe who was staying with him is brought in also. The two men tell the police they have nothing to worry about because they are not the men. The witnesses swear that the two men are two of the robbers and the police quickly arrest them.
            The trial does not go well. Mary testifies to try to save Brick but to no use the prosecutor makes her statements sound faulty. Joe and Brick are quickly accused of murder by the jury (who are so convinced that the men are guilty as they vote two of the men discuss seeing each other after the trial) the sentenced to death.
            Mary goes to whoever will listen to her she knows that Brick and Joe had absolutely nothing to do with the robbery and murder. As she is at a neighborhood store a bank robbery occurs and an apple she brings to Joe holds the same brand of bullet used in the murder. Police Lt. Everett (Ralph Bellamy) believes Mary’s story and wants to desperately help her out. Everett and Mary with the help of the local newspaper boy and his friends find the getaway taxi and track the robbers to New York City.

            Brick and Joe are eventually found guilty and the witnesses correctly identify the robbers but Brick is not the same optimistic man he once was.
            This was a really good film. I enjoyed Maureen O’Sullivan a lot. The more I see of her the more I like her. I was surprised to see she got billing over Henry Fonda but she was in the film more than he was. O’Sullivan did over act at times but that did not take away from her character. Fonda was as always very good I like him in whatever he was in. Ralph Bellamy did was he always did best playing the good guy who helps the main guy.
The plot and story of the film is based off a true story from Connecticut. There was a robbery and a taxi driver was convicted of the robbery/murder. Columbia planned for this to be a big picture but the Connecticut police did not want this to look bad for them and there was a lot of politics involved with the script and movie and it was subsequently scaled back. When Let Us Live was released it was given very little publicity and was released as a double feature. That is very unfortunate because the story was very good as well as the cast.

            Since Let Us Live is not widely known and was not a big release the film has never unfortunately been released on VHS or DVD. TCM aired the film over the summer as part of their Summer Under the Stars series when the star of the day was Ralph Bellamy. Definitely try to see this film if TCM ever airs it again or if it can be found online somewhere. The film is very thought provoking and sad that the judicial system can do something so wrong like they did.

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