Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1958. Figaro. Screenplay by Nelson Gidding, Don Mankiewicz, based on newspaper articles by Ed Montgomery and the letters of Barbara Graham. Cinematography by Lionel Lindon. Produced by Walter Wanger. Music by Johnny Mandel. Production Design by Victor A. Gangelin, Ted Haworth. Costume Design by Angela Alexander, Wesley Jeffries. Film Editing by William Hornbeck. Academy Awards 1958. Golden Globe Awards 1958.
Susan Hayward shines in this riveting biography of Barbara Graham, a woman whose bad choices eventually led her to the gas chamber. After struggling to keep her home together and raise her children properly, Gordon turns to prostitution and the wrong crowd in order to survive. Stupidly involved in a robbery and murder, she is given a quick trial and sentenced to death row while the public still debates her severe sentence. Robert Wise uses stylish photography and a jazzy score to highlight this melodramatic tale. The strong screenplay is based on writings by journalist Edward Montgomery, who began his work on the case by exploiting Gordon’s shady lifestyle and passing her off as another floozy caught in the system, but ended up sympathising with her. He himself is characterized in this entertaining film that owes much to its stunning leading lady (though if I had the choice, I’d rather watch her in With A Song In My Heart).