4 February 2019 | dougdoepke
The Poignant Title Tells It All
Depression Era flick based on true story, but scaled down due to political pressure on Columbia studio (IMDB). O'Sullivan and Fonda are an all-American couple looking to marry. But then Fonda's mistakenly identified as one of three robber-killers, and sentenced to death. However, the deeply committed O'Sullivan refuses to give up and eventually enlists cop Bellamy to help. So, can they prove Fonda's innocence before his execution date.
The subtext pits "little people" like the leads against an unfeeling city bureaucracy more concerned with procedure than justice. Then too, eye-witness testimony is shown as faulty, along with miles of inflexible red-tape. The plight of ordinary folks is further suggested by the dumping of edible food the hungry need in order to drive up wholesale market prices, a not uncommon practice of the time. On the other hand, reference is made to FHA home loans as part of the New Deal's effort to ameliorate conditions. Fonda and O'Sullivan had planned their future around such a home loan. Much of this subtext, I believe, reflects common feelings of the time.
Acting-wise, O'Sullivan gets to run a gamut of emotions from dreamy eyed lover to wild-eyed desperation. That dreamy eyed first part where the couple plans their conventional future pulls us effectively into their later plight. Note, however, that the countdown to execution is not exploited in the fashion of similar crime films. The one real stretch is cop Bellamy risking his career by taking up O'Sullivan's cause. It does however show the potential feeling side to an impersonal bureaucracy, which probably helped assuage Columbia's censorship battle with Massachusetts, the locale of the actual occurrence.
Despite the obscurity, it's an interesting little film (68-minutes) that makes me wonder what the intended version would have been like.