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You Only Live Once (1937 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

You Only Live Once
Directed byFritz Lang
Screenplay by
Produced byWalter Wanger
CinematographyLeon Shamroy[1]
Edited byDaniel Mandell[1]
Music byAlfred Newman[1]
Walter Wanger Productions, Inc.[1]
Distributed byUnited Artists Corp.
Release date
  • January 29, 1937 (1937-01-29)
Running time
85–86 minutes
CountryUnited States[1]
Box office$589,503[2]

You Only Live Once is a 1937 American crime drama film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Sylvia Sidney and Henry Fonda. Considered an early film noir,[3] the film was the second directed by Lang in the United States.[4] At least 15 minutes were trimmed from the original 100-minute version of the film due to its then unprecedented violence.[5] Despite the removal of such scenes, the film is widely considered an early film noir classic.[6]

Plot synopsis

Eddie Taylor (Henry Fonda) is an ex-convict who feels he is reformed and deserves a break, but he expects he will not get one. In spite of his marriage to Joan, the woman who waited for him and who has always believed in him, it seems his expectations will be met. With the help of Joan's boss, Stephen, the public defender, Eddie gets a steady job and he buys a house with Joan. He is summarily fired, however, by a boss who makes it clear he had no interest in giving him a chance. Eddie's old gang want him to join them in bank robberies, and he is tempted, but chooses to search for legitimate work instead. Then, a bank job occurs during which six people are killed. Eddie is framed and subsequently wrongly convicted for the murders. He is sentenced to death by electrocution. On the eve of his execution date, a gun smuggled into the medical area in which he is being held enables him to escape.

As his escape is taking place, it becomes known to authorities that the bank vehicle containing the money, which had been driven from the robbery as part of the plan, has been recovered from a lake - with the body of the guilty bank robber/murderer inside. Eddie receives a last-minute pardon and the prison chaplain, who Eddie has always trusted, tries to convince him of this reprieve. Eddie is too bitter and disillusioned to accept he is a free man. He kills the chaplain in his desperation to escape.

He and a pregnant Joan go on the lam, hoping to make it across the border to Canada. They become infamous and are blamed for every crime in the areas they pass through. After the baby is born, Joan manages to meet Stephen and her sister. The two have arranged for Joan to hop a boat to Havana with the baby and wait there while Stephen works to clear her name. She refuses to leave Eddie. They continue their run, but are ambushed by the police and killed. As he dies, Eddie hears the voice of the chaplain telling him he is free.



The film recorded a loss of $48,045.[2]


Radio adaptation

You Only Live Once was presented on Philip Morris Playhouse on November 28 1941. The adaptation starred Burgess Meredith.

Cultural impact

James Baldwin writes fondly about the film in The Devil Finds Work, arguing Lang "never succeeded quite so brilliantly again".[citation needed]

François Truffaut wrote the film "is about destiny and fate", explaining: "You Only Live Once is about interlocking forces: everything may seem to be going well, but the truth is, everything is going badly."[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "You Only Live Once". American Film Institute. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c Matthew Bernstein, Walter Wagner: Hollywood Independent, Minnesota Press, 2000 p437
  3. ^ Schager, Nick. "Please don't call Fritz Lang's fatalistic noir "YOLO"". Film.
  4. ^ Fritz Lang at IMDb
  5. ^ Justice, Christopher. "You Only Live Once".
  6. ^ French, Philip (July 14, 2012). "You Only Live Once" – via
  7. ^ Truffaut, François (2014). The Films in My Life. New York, NY: Diversion Books. ISBN 978-1-62681-396-0.

External links

This page was last edited on 22 March 2022, at 03:05
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