EACH DAWN I DIE

(1939)
With James Cagney, George Raft, Jane Bryan, George Bancroft, Maxie Rosenbloom
Directed by William Keighley
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

Thugs With Dirty Mugs    Some lesser Warner Brothers films were often thoroughly entertaining in spite of themselves.  EACH DAWN I DIE is a good example.  The plot is riddled with ridiculous holes and preposterous moments, yet through the sheer force of James Cagney and the undeniable charm of George Raft, the film, like so many Warners, still holds up.  Cagney plays an investigative reporter framed for vehicular manslaughter, while Raft is a hard-boiled prisoner in jail for life.  The men form a fast if sometimes tenuous friendship as Cagney teaches the convict that there are honest men (aka "square guys") in this world.

     Considering all of the great tough guys who worked at Warners, it is surprising how infrequently the most famous four - Cagney, Bogart, Robinson and Raft - actually worked together.  With the exception of one scene in TAXI!, this is the only time Cagney and Raft co-starred in a film.  Cagney gives his standard performance and is terrific as always, but George Raft just may overshadow him slightly.  Despite being the lesser actor, Raft appears to be having the time of his life in the role of the convict, and his energy leaps off the screen.

     There are many better prison pictures, but Cagney, Raft and George Bancroft in a fine turn as a sympathetic warden, make EACH DAWN I DIE a flawed but endearing film, perhaps one co-star short (Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart) of being a classic.  3½ - JB

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