“Let Us Live” Review – Maureen O’Sullivan (Summer Under the Stars #8)
Since I’ve gotten so far behind on my watching and reviews for this challenge, I thought I’d write about a film I’ve already seen this year, but still fits into the movie schedule.
Thoughts on Maureen:
I’ve only seen her in this film, The Thin Man, and apparently she was in Peggy Sue Got Married. I don’t really have an opinion on her as an actor either way, but she hasn’t really stood out to me in any of the movies I’ve seen.
TCM Movie Schedule:
- Skyscraper Souls
- The Bishop Misbehaves
- Woman Wanted
- The Devil-Doll
- The Voice of Bugle Ann
- Between Two Women
- My Dear Miss Aldrich
- Hold That Kiss
- Let Us Live
- Tarzan, The Ape Man
- Tarzan and His Mate
- The Big Clock
- Hannah and Her Sisters
- Never Too Late
Taxi driver Brick Tennant (Henry Fonda) is falsely accused of a terrible crime and unjustly sentenced to death. His girlfriend, Mary (Maureen O’Sullivan) tries to help get him free.
This is a very short film that still packs a punch and manages to separate itself from standard B-movie noir fare with its great performances. I love Henry Fonda and he’s just wonderful in this, plus he and O’Sullivan have natural chemistry.
Plot-wise, the film isn’t too different from a majority of the movies made in this era. But it critiques the American justice system and questions the death penalty, which is a pretty big deal for 1939, and does it relatively well.
O’Sullivan is the heart of the film, continuing to fight for Brick’s freedom even when it proves to be very difficult. She can be a little too over-dramatic, something I also had an issue with in regards to her performance in The Thin Man.
The film suffered from huge budget cuts and backlash from the studios, which really caused it to suffer in terms of what kind of commentary they could make, and how far they could go with pushing the limits.
That being said, for how much pushback was being put upon the production and the time period in which it was made, Let Us Live still has important things to say and holds up well in the current day.
The cinematography and directing are sharp and original, and immerse the viewer in the gritty noir world the film takes place in. The lack of a happy ending makes it more realistic, though it is sad to see what happens to the characters in the end.
Arguably, it’s too similar to You Only Live Once (my favorite Fonda film) but I think it’s a good partner; kind of an alternate version of the film. I like earlier Fonda performances more because he picked such complex roles and played them with nuance. Even in this film, you’re not totally convinced that he’s innocent, which is a very interesting angle to approach the character.
Even though I saw this movie a few months ago, it’s still stuck with me.
- Favorite Scene: I can’t find anything on YouTube 😦
- Favorite Character: Mary Roberts
- O’Sullivan’s Performance: She was good and believable, plus it was nice to see a strong female character that was trying to get stuff done. She was a bit melodramatic at times, but overall I’d give her performance a 3.5/5.
- Would I Recommend? If you generally enjoy B-movie noirs/Henry Fonda/Maureen O’Sullivan/critiques of the American justice system, then yes. Otherwise, I’d skip.
audrey cornell View All
Audrey is a self-proclaimed film buff who loves to watch, read, and write about movies. Her passions include queer & feminist studies, watching obscure 80s/90s and Old Hollywood films, and discovering new music. She also writes for Scribe Magazine. Check out her podcast about actors who died young!
I’ve not seen this but have watched many of Maureen O’Sullivan’s films. It just dawned on me recently when re-watching one I didn’t realize I had already seen how many of them are fairly forgettable. I don’t know if that is the content and quality of the films themselves or just her performances.
That’s interesting! I feel like she did a lot of B-movies, which can definitely be hit-or-miss. Do you have any favorites that you would recommend?
You must see the CLASSIC two Tarzan movies on the list as they put Maureen with capital lettered actress list forever. A little itch is your reference to the reviewed film as a “B” noir. Sorry but noir films aren’t generally referenced with the NOIR accreditation until John Huston’s THE MALTESE FALCON came on the screen in 1941, and the French stamped it with the NOIR certificate.You have really wet my appetite to see “Let Us Live” with your review.
I will check those out, thanks for the recommendation! And my bad, I’m not really a noir fan so I wasn’t aware. I hope you like it – not my favorite of this type of film but still has some great qualities.