Possibly Fritz Lang’s best American film, You Only Live Once is certainly the first and best of the Bonnie and Clyde type films of young-couples-on-the-run. The story tells of Eddie (Henry Fonda), a three-time loser who is imprisoned and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. Escaping from prison, he flees across the country with his girlfriend Jo (Sylvia Sydney) to a gripping and uncompromising conclusion at the Canadian border. According to historian Georges Sadoul, “This and Fury are Fritz Lang’s best Hollywood films, and expositions of Lang’s favorite theme of guilt. As in Fury it is society not destiny that is responsible, but whereas in Fury Lang focused blame on the mob, here society’s guilt is more diffuse. Visually striking, the composition and lighting, in their brooding, atmospheric effects, sometimes recall those of expressionism. Though its plot is largely melodramatic, the total effect of the film (much helped by the touching warmth of Sylvia Sydney and Fonda) is very powerful.” —BAM/PFA
Born in Vienna in 1890, Fritz Lang was brought up in Viennese middle-class comfort by his Roman Catholic father Anton and his Jewish mother Paula Schleisinger who both hoped that young Fritz would become an architect. But like so many middle-class children of the new century, Lang was fascinated by the pulp and fantasy literature of his day, the art world both in and outside Vienna and a potent new form of entertainment that invited artistic scrutiny and craftsmanship, the motion picture. Though the teenaged Lang attended school as his parents wished, he secretly haunted the cafe’s and cabarets of Vienna and intended to become a painter like his idols Klimt and Schile. At aged 21 Lang’s yearning took him to Paris where he lived in Bohemian splendor until the outbreak of W.W.I. Returning to Vienna, Lang enlisted in the Austrian army where he repeatedly saw combat, was wounded at least three times and decorated twice.
It was while on leave recuperating from one of these wounds… read more
"Fine world. First, they kill the chicken, Taylor eats the chicken. Then, they kill Taylor." "Tell him they took all the cash. They robbed the cash register too." Nice cinematography, early Bonnie & Clyde plot but that's all because of the Hollywood studio system. Not Lang's fault. 3/5
3 1/2 out of 5 stars. Fritz Lang's direction really stands out here, namely during the prison sequence and Eddie's escape. Sylvia Sidney was a goddamn doll and Henry Fonda wasn't bad. Unfortunately the viscous melodrama reminded me why I'm not too fond of movies from the 30s and the story wasn't smoothed out very well. I don't think its as good as everyone else does but its not bad either.
Why is Henry Fonda America’s wrong man? Or: Why is America Henry Fonda’s country of residence?
A discussion with the co-directors of Low Life, a poignant story of young people loving against the law in modern France.
Also: Sight & Sound’s Gilbert Adair archive, new restorations from the National Film Preservation Foundation and more.
Lovers on the run: Ex-con Eddie Taylor (Henry Fonda) and his wife, Joan Graham (Sylvia Sidney), in a publicity still for Fritz Lang's You Only