Each Dawn I Die (1939)

“Okay, canary — start singin’!”

Synopsis:
After outing a corrupt gubernatorial candidate and his assistant (Victor Jory), an investigative journalist (James Cagney) is framed for manslaughter and sent to prison, where he meets a gangster (George Raft) who promises to help him clear his name but reneges on this promise once he escapes. Will Cagney’s loyal girlfriend (Jane Bryan) help keep Raft accountable to his commitment, or will Cagney remain unjustly imprisoned for the rest of his life?

Genres:

Review:
James Cagney and George Raft’s only film together was this unusual gangster flick about loyalty and honor among criminals, journalists, and politicians. It swiftly showcases the relentless corruption of politicians willing to do anything to get or remain elected, ultimately landing on the side of the underdog (in this case, journalists and mistreated prisoners). While the storyline is a tad over-complicated, and we can guess what the outcome will ultimately be, there’s sufficient tension and atmospheric cinematography along the way to hold one’s interest, and the prison scenes feel reasonably authentic. The final shoot-out is especially well handled.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • James Cagney as Frank Ross
  • Arthur Edeson’s cinematography
  • The excitingly filmed prison shoot-out finale

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a look.

Links:

One Response to “Each Dawn I Die (1939)”

  1. A once-must – for Cagney and Raft’s performances (they work very well together), the refreshingly “over-complicated” script and William Keighley’s careful direction, which makes the prison scenes feel “authentic” and which brings particular punch to the extended and detailed shoot-out finale.

    I’d seen this once before but had forgotten just how many twists and turns are packed into 91 minutes. Quite a bit of tension is drawn from the near-impossibility of uncovering the frame-up.

    According to IMDb, Warner Bros. was “grooming Bryan for stardom” (and she shows potential) but she soon after chose marriage over the business. In this film, from time to time, she kept reminding me of Diane Keaton (esp. as she appears in ‘The Godfather’).

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