YOU ONLY LIVE ONCE

1937 United Artists

Review/Commentary by Dave Smith

If you've ever wondered what were the antecedents to such films as The Getaway and Bonnie and Clyde, you need look no further than this stunning and haunting drama. It is considered by many critics as a milestone movie of its era. Two of the most underrated stars ever to appear on the silver screen, Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney are flawless in their characterizations of a young convict and his wife. It's a harrowing story of physical and spiritual violence. It made many people at that time think twice about how we treat "criminals." Director Fritz Lang made many great films but this may be his masterpiece. Lang was born in Germany and did much of his finest work there. The two films which most people connect with Lang are his 1927 spectacle, Metropolis and M, the story of a psychopathic child murderer starring Peter Lorre. In 1932 Josef Goebbels offered Lang the position of head of the German film industry. He left Germany that very day for Paris. He never went back. When he arrived in Hollywood in 1934 he could neither read, write or speak English. He wore a monocle. Needless to say he was regarded with some suspicion in Hollywood and was blacklisted for a time. During that time he travelled extensively throughout the U.S. He lived for short periods of time in small towns and talked with typical Americans. To prepare himself to direct westerns, he lived with the Navajo Indians and travelled throughout the west. In 1936 he was offered the job of directing Fury, an excellent film starring Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney. This film received good reviews and he was called upon to direct You Only Live Once. Lang tried the patience of his actors and his crew. Neither Sidney or Fonda liked working with him. This reviewer had the opportunity to interview Ms. Sidney and Maureen O'Sullivan while they were both touring in a stage production of "Sabrina." She verified the fact she did not enjoy working with Lang. Fonda, known for his ability to get along with almost anyone said, "I couldn't get along with him. He is certainly a creative artist but he has no regard for his actors. It doesn't occur to him that actors are human beings with hearts and instincts like other things." Miss Sidney passed away in 1999. While a stunning beauty in her youth, did not age well. She moved into character roles and was nominated for an oscar as late as 1974 for best supporting actress for Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams. Fonda did not win an oscar until On Golden Pond, near the end of his career. Until he won, he was in the same "oscarless" category as Chaplin, Garbo, Orson Welles (although Welles did share an Oscar with Herman Mankiewicz for Best Writing, Original Screenplay for Citizen Kane), Cary Grant, John Barrymore and Montgomery Clift .



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"When Movies Were Movies" and "Hoosiers in Hollywood" are  registered trademarks, fully protected under U.S. and International law. Use without permission is strictly prohibited.

 

Home |Silents Please! |The Golden Age |Current Films |Hoosiers in Hollywood |Movie Music | |About Me |Links |Linking to the Site |Guestbook |Contact Dave