Doris Day stars as singer Ruth Etting in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (1955), recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.
It's been many years since the only time I previously saw LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (1955), at the Vagabond Theater in Los Angeles, circa late '70s or early '80s.
Although I'm a huge Doris Day fan, this is a title I hadn't gone back to simply because the plot is pretty dark; I prefer Day's sunnier musicals. That said, both her performance and singing are phenomenal. It's worth seeing the movie just to hear her sing so many great standards; her performance of "Ten Cents a Dance" in particular, with perfect staging and costuming, is unforgettable. In the end it must be said the movie is essential Day viewing.
In this biopic Day plays singer Ruth Etting. Ruth's career is promoted by gangster Martin Snyder (James Cagney), and she becomes dependent on him, despite her very real talent.
The contrasting dynamic between Day's quiet, somewhat uptight Ruth and Cagney's bluster as the obnoxious Snyder is a big part of what makes the movie interesting. As the film goes along, however, and Ruth turns to drink, their relationship becomes increasingly difficult to watch.
Day rather bravely plays a woman who is, frankly, selfish; it took two people to have a bad relationship. Cagney is always compelling and was Oscar-nominated for his performance as the abusive Snyder, but here again, given the choice I'd much rather watch him in FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933)!
The supporting cast includes Cameron Mitchell as a pianist who's the other man in Ruth's life. Robert Keith, Tom Tully, and Richard Gaines round out the cast.
Charles Vidor. It was filmed in CinemaScope and Eastman Color by Arthur E. Arling. Day's memorable costumes are by the great Helen Rose. The running time is 122 minutes.
Besides Cagney's nomination, the film received five additional Oscar nominations, with Daniel Fuchs winning for Best Story. He cowrote the script with Isobel Lennart.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray is lovely. Extras carried over from the previous DVD release include the trailer and three shorts, including Ruth Etting in A MODERN CINDERELLA (1932) and ROSELAND (1930).
Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.