EACH DAWN I DIE was the only film that featured James Cagney and George Raft as costars, though Raft appeared in an un-credited bit in an early film and as a player in another. It’s based on a novel of the same title by Jerome Odiun. It was a smash at the time.
Cagney is crusading reporter Frank Ross who makes the mistake of crossing the wrong people, so-called solid citizens who are the real power brokers in the crime world. He spots them burning the books one night, stumbles into a hood that fingers him, and is set up, framed for manslaughter. He’s grabbed, knocked unconscious and liquor poured over him, and planted in a car sent careening down a street to plow into another at an intersection. Three people are killed and he gets twenty years.
Raft is “Hood” Stacey, a criminal into everything and whose latest escapade nets him a hundred-ninety-nine years.
The pair meet on the bus headed to the prison and at first don’t get along. Stacey makes fun of the “crusading” reporter now locked up just like him.
Things change when Ross saves Stacey from a rat named Limpey, a hated rival about to stab him in the back. Stacey agrees to help Ross clear his name, the only proviso being he has to help him escape. Ross must finger Stacey for the murder of another prisoner so that he can get a trial at the courthouse. The escape is made and Ross is thrown into the “hole” because he won’t admit culpability or where Stacey is hiding. Stacey’s only lead is the rat who fingered Ross that night.
Months go by and nothing. Ross has become as hardened as most of the other convicts, the troubles he causes keeping him in the hole.
The finale involves a prison riot, Stacey back in prison, and the National Guard on hand with grenades and machine guns. Good Stuff.