I Want to Live — The Barbara Graham murder case, November 16, 1958

Above: Barbara Graham, one of four women to be executed in California, along with Juanita “the Duchess” Spinelli, Louise Peete and Elizabeth Duncan.

The trailer–dig those bongos!
Gerry Mulligan!
Five years after the execution of Barbara Graham in the Mabel Monahan killing, the story comes to the screen in the Robert Wise film “I Want to Live!” by Nelson Gidding and Don Mankiewicz, starring Susan Hayward in an Oscar-winning performance.

Graham and accomplices John Santo and Emmett Perkins were convicted of killing Monahan, 63, who was found strangled and beaten in her Burbank home, which had been ransacked. Another accomplice, John True, testified for the prosecution under a grant of immunity. True said they were looking for $100,000 supposedly hidden at the home by Monahan’s former son-in-law, a Las Vegas gambling operator.

“Mrs. Graham didn’t bat an eye.” “I just can’t believe that verdict is true.”
“Life is so short. Is mine to be shorter?” “As long as they found me guilty of something I didn’t do, I’d rather take the gas chamber.”
“When you hear the pellets drop, count 10 and take a deep breath.” “The newsmen and photogs around the office say she was ‘guilty as hell.’ “

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in #courts, Film, Front Pages, Hollywood, Homicide, San Fernando Valley. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to I Want to Live — The Barbara Graham murder case, November 16, 1958

  1. Ralph Nichols says:

    The Barbara Graham story was part of my master’s thesis at CSUN so I did a lot of research on the topic. The movie claims it’s the true story of Barbara Graham but it wasn’t close to the truth, especially that scene of her arrest featured in the trailer. The most accurate part of the movie was the execution sequence. After talking to a lot of people involved in the case including many of the cops I came to the conclusion that she was guilty. She garnered sympathy because of her gender but there wasn’t much doubt as to her guilt.

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  2. ESTELLA DAVIS says:

    IS THIS THE OLD SUSAN HAYWOOD MOVIE. THE NAME IS SUSAN HAYWOOD, STARRING IN “I WANT TO LIVE” A VERY TOUCHING STORY.

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  3. Tim Ahern says:

    Whats w/ the faux Al Hirshfeld drawing? And who is Norkin?

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  4. Greg says:

    The Ballad Of Barbara Graham can be heard over on the WFMU blog. Also included is a photo of the Burbank house where Mabel Monahan was murdered.
    LINK
    Or if I messed up on that attempt to include a hyperlink:
    http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/2008/06/the-ballad-of-b.html

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  5. Sal B says:

    In the late 1950s, movie theaters would often have various promotions for kids, including being able to get in for certain soft-drink bottlecaps for “special shows” [titles not announced]. I remember such a show at the Alcazar theater [long gone] in Bell, where hundreds of kids and teenagers, including myself, age 13, lined up with their Pepsi bottlecaps clutched in their hands.
    Instead of something kids would actually like to see, such as “The Crimson Pirate,” I remember being treated to “I Want to Live.” It may have been a decent film, but the myriads of flattened popcorn boxes flying at the screen and hooting at this drama showed we didn’t appreciate it much.
    I have memories of being bored out of my mind and don’t know if I could stand to watch it today, even though it might be worth seeing. On another such occasion, they showed “The Song of Bernadette,” with not much bettter reception by us kids.
    Geeze, what were they thinking? Did it boost box-office numbers to show serious film dramas like those to kids who really wanted adventure, Westerns, and such?

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  6. John McIsaac says:

    Barbara Graham had an horrific childhood. She repeated much of the sad life of her own mother. I wonder what happened to her three children? I hope they caught some breaks and had/have a better life. Perhaps Mr. Nichols,a previous poster on this topic would know.

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  7. in 1958 i was 14 years old and was stunned by this movie. I have always been a fan of susan hayward and thought she deserved the oscar, however we must look at this movie as entertainment and as a disturbing showing of what the gas chamber was like. It has always been a great film, but we must remember the victim and her death. Was barbara graham guilty we will never know. If guilty she got what she deserved, if innocent it is a very sad story. A comment in the movie was about her accomplices and a guard said what was she doing shacked up with them in the first place.

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  8. K.A.A says:

    DOES ANYONE KNOW WHATEVER HAPPENED TO HER CHILDREN?
    DOES ANYONE KNOW WHETHER OR NOT THEY FOUND HER INNOCENT FOR HER CRIME AFTER SHE DIED?
    MY HUSBAND SAID HE HEARD THAT THEY FINALLY FOUND HER INNOCENT OF THE CRIME ONLY AFTER SHE WAS GASSED.
    PLEASE E-MAIL ME THE INFO ONCE ANYONE FINDS IT.

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  9. Donna Burse says:

    My oldest brother, James Cook, spent a lot of time in and out of prison and I remember him telling me once that he was in prison the same time as Barbara Graham’s husband right after the Mrs. Monohan murder. I also remember him telling me that her husband told him that Barbara didn’t kill the woman but her husband was miffed at her and implicated her anyway. Because of this, I think the state put Mrs. Graham to death unjustly.

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  10. Wanda says:

    This film was on TCM last night. Robert Osborne said that when Susan Hayward was asked if she thought Graham was guilty,she didn’t want to answer at first. Later(and after a couple of drinks) she said she believed Graham was guilty,though she had obviously been directed to play her as innocent. Good film .

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