For You I Die (1947)

For You I Die (1947) is a low budget thriller of an innocent con on the run.

Kicking off in a sewer, two characters are thrust out of the void and into their own noir universe. 

Tense, nervous, fighting their way from the lowest and worst of all locales, to attain some kind of freedom and decency.

That’s Noir, living in a sewer for three days, desperate and on the run, trying to get some clothes, trying to get some dough, trying to get to San Francisco.

Two of the lowest of the low in the cheapest of the cheapest of sewers are on the run in the land of the free.

And this is where film noir enjoyed taking us in the 1940s. The enjoyment of life is there in other people, in those whom we love and trust. 

Vagrant roadside living the transformation from man to dirty vagrant with that unshakable unshaven sadness, the escaping prisoners split up and For You I Die’s tragic chops slam down on the counter of the Diner. 

Sewer living in For You I Die (1947)

What does the matriarchal owner of the diner Aunt Maggie say? 

"May the winds of heaven come down and blow away the trash if the earth."

It's a thought for film noir to express its values

Life in a film noir diner. Paul Langton in For You I Die (1947)

Disillusionment is key to the character of former prison inmate, Paul Langton, who escapes from jail and finds himself stuck in a road house run by the watchful and forbearing Marian Kerby.

The strange roadside joint features a tiny family of guests and relatives who are an offbeat slice of Americana, and a perfect summation of the wildness underpinning the country. There is the blond  floozie, and a hypomanic Russian played by Mischa Auer. There is a drunken but affectionate old cook, and finally the girl of Langton's dreams, Cathy Downs.

At the same time, For You I Die is shifty, criminal and dark. There is an effectiveness about the desperation. The music indicates tragedy and even pathos at the plight of escaping prisoners which is a delight only in film noir, an invitation to hold your breath and go on the run, to feel what it feels like to be chased, to be low, and to be on the other side of society.

Jane Weeks as Georgie in For You I Die (1947)
Georgie: The best way to live in this joint is to stay unconscious.

Cathy's character seeks a place where there are no newspapers radios and people. She is the innocent whole her nourish nemesis and dark side Georgie, the femme fatale the purely wicked hinge on which the key twists turn.

For You I Die is a film for the 1940s, and may be low budget but has a kind of perfection that only the cinema of this ear could achieve on low budget. It is probably true that the art of movie storytelling reached in the film noir style a higher level of sustained drama and quality than almost any other cinema genre. 

For You I Die is really Cathy's drama, too, her life story, her Noir nightmare and her femme fatale and our only respite from the barrage of secondary characters. 

Mischa Auer in For You I Die (1947)

Characters peculiar and even deliberately racist appear with Mischa Auer's strange performances in For You I Die perhaps having lost something in translation as the years have passed. The two leads are innocent, as they must be, signalled when Paul Langton's character blurts out: "I swear I didn't kill that guard!"

Then side by side with his girl, he is struck for the right decision to make in the big old cruel world, which he can at least face with the woman he loves. Cathy Down's character, appropriately named Hope feels sensitive about her future and so does the increasingly handsome hero who ends up pumping gas!

Yes, these heels are always pumping gas! 

Pumping gas in For You I Die (1947)

Film noir talks about the possibility of love, not the impossibility of it.
For You I Die (1947)

Temptation looms in the form of recidivist motions, and the hero being drawn away by his former men friends. Our hero narrowly passes the test. 

And what often happens with B pictures such as this, is that the secondary stories don't compound the great work being done by the intense and emotional central stories. The Mischa Auer material is the worst case in point and really does distract, although its purpose is old style cinematic, almost even forcing that traditional view that a film should have a song, and some kind of variety thrown in, because it is essentially an extension of the theatrical stage.

The women are always beautiful, so their morality is hidden on the surface.
For You I Die (1947)

Finally, the noir house rules force our hero to snap, and it's always great when a handsome lead speaks for us all. The transcendent moments which do rise at rate moments burn up pretty tragically until the net starts to eventually draw tighter.

Love is nervous, love is gentle.
Cathy Downs and Paul Langton in For You I Die (1947)

With the speed at which many of these films were made it may have made sense to hook what you are able to conceive of around the aspects which work well - filmed tropes - such as here Love - doomed live - innocent hopes - good kids in a sour world - this couple in fir you I die are so innocent then when their passionate plunging embrace comes - 65 minutes into a 71 minutes feature - it is only a HUG nor a full on lip smacked. Who comes to film noir to hug?!

Innocent film noir hugging in For You I Die (1947)

The denouement of For You I Die is a fist fight, well executed but it is not a situation the viewer cares much for any more, having being through the action until this point. Perhaps on one level a man must choose between a morally loose woman, and a more restrained wifelet type - - typical propaganda - - and his best friend, who will only lead him astray? There are two types of both men and women out there, and if film noir revolves around anything at all, it must be trust.

Cathy Downs in For You I Die (1947)

Questions persist regarding the naming of film noir movies. For You I Die is an example of a crowd-pulling sensation if ever there was one. Whom is dying for whom? Who is the you that I am dying for? It might be a valid question, especially in a movie in which mysteriously, nobody dies.

Is this a sexual death or a criminal death? Is this death a life elsewhere? At the heart of this film noir is a couple who work together to achieve goodness, most especially of all in the face of pressure to either return to crime, or find another way to give up on society. Like in the best movies, love finds a way.

Is it even an existential death? The death of the self for a greater good, which may in fact be justice, or marriage. Who can say?

The sensation is one of a mild and questioning terror that is seeping in from the wings, to try and create an experience, and maybe even make viewers believe they have seen a better picture than they imagined.

For You I Visit WIKIPEDIA!

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