Director: Fritz Lang
Year Released: 1937
An ex-con (Henry Fonda) - who's been busted three times already and, with a fourth, will spend his life either behind bars or electrocuted - is finally given a chance to lead an honest life thanks to the adulation of a woman who would become his wife (Sylvia Sidney), except he gets dragged back to jail once a hat belonging to him is discovered at a crime scene. Fonda had the face for these innocent-man movies (Hitchcock fittingly cast him in The Wrong Man) and the tribulations he endures are extraordinarily weighed against him, suggesting that not only is it difficult to 'fix your life' and find genuine employment, but even 'good things' can turn bad, like when Fonda doesn't believe the warden that he's a free man and Fonda shoots a priest (!). Fittingly, I saw this the day after I saw Wellman's A Star Is Born, and the Sidney character here has the same undying love-for-a-troubled man that Janet Gaynor has for suicidal booze-bag Fredric March. Ladies: make better choices.