Saturday, April 2, 2011

Each Dawn I Die (1939), William Keighley.

I'm innocent, you lousy mug!

Each Dawn I Die has a similar plot to countless classic era B-movies:  an innocent man is wrongly jailed and must suffer the hardships of prison until he finds freedom.  Of course with the quivering intensity Cagney brings to the screen, you'd never mistake this for a B.  Visually, the film is pleasantly plain, effective for a prison setting, and uses uncomplicated compositions.  Raft's identification of Cagney as "a square guy" echoes this aesthetic.  I couldn't help but mentally contrast the subdued prison visit scene in this film with the one in Goodfellas, where Lorraine Bracco brings her bawling kids to a crowded visiting room and nags Ray Liotta for being unfaithful.   Ray wants the relief of his quiet cell; Cagney is aching to be set free.  The repeated use of the word "time," the mention of the length of prison sentences and shots of clocks and calendars emphasize the psychological toll the sentences take on the men.

"And you're the dirty screw that killed my pal!"

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