Today: April 23, 2024

You Only Live Once

Upon being released from prison, notorious criminal Eddie Taylor is reunited with his sweetheart Joan Graham.

Upon
being released from prison, notorious criminal Eddie Taylor is reunited with
his sweetheart Joan Graham.
Joan is a public defenders secretary,
so from the get go you realise that these two are star crossed lovers destined
for each other. Vowing to make better of his life Eddie agrees to abandon his
criminal career and the two begin to set up a new life with each other.
Unfortunately for Eddie though his reputation has proceeded him. He gets fired
from a job after his boss learns of his criminal record and the couple are
ousted out of a hotel after the owner recognises him from a crime magazine.
Despite this the couple persevere and valiantly go on regardless. Yet the next
event changes their lives forever. Eddie is wrongly imprisoned and sentenced to
death. Accused of being the perpetrator of a fatal bank robbery, Eddie exclaims
his innocence but is convicted on the sole fact that a hat was found on the
crime scene baring his initials. Once again Eddie’s reputation has done him no
favours.

What transpires from here is a strong
mix of a prison/ road movie. The decisions that both Eddie and Joan make in the
second half of the film abandon their usually sensible and logical selves. Many
opportunities arise for them to attempt to start again but a sense of fear and
injustice has clouded their perspective of society. What is conveyed here is
that against all odds the lovers are determined to be with each other and they
need one another to survive this ordeal.

Sometimes cases of love as blind as
this can become irksome and annoying but both characters are portrayed with
enough respect, dignity and intelligence that you can believe that these two
would go to these lengths for each other. This is mainly down to two great
performances from Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney who play the
roles with real belief and tenacity. The performance from Fonda in particular
shows all the ferocity and charisma he would later portray in films like 12
Angry Men
and Once Upon a Time in the West. Although at times it can be slightly
melodramatic and soppy, the tone of the film is subtly changed throughout to
avoid any of the obvious problems that this genre can often present.

One final acknowledgement must go
towards the director Fritz Lang who made a fantastic transition from the
likes of Metropolis and The Testament of Dr Mabuse to You Only
Live Once.
This could be criticised as being a much lighter fair in
comparison to those two films but what starts out as a sweet melodrama quickly
descends into depravity and desperation. The key changes in style are so well
done in never feels too forced and doesn’t slow the film down at any point. If
any film can lay testament to just how accomplished a director Lang was then
maybe You Only Live Once could be it. Fully deserving of its 75th
Anniversary re-release You Only Live Once is still a fascinating film that
doesn’t disappoint.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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