Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Love Me or Leave Me (1955) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

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.

LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME was directed by 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).

March 2020 Update: The Warner Archive will reissue this film on DVD in April 2020.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


Blogger Jerry E said...

Nice to see this good film reviewed, Laura. It is a dark movie certainly and a tougher watch than any other Day picture but she is really fine in it. Very underrated actress. We know what a terrific singer she is but her acting was equal, I believe. I think also of her performances in such as "YOUNG AT HEART", "THE MAN WHO NEW TOO MUCH".

11:45 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Jerry! I certainly agree about her talent. She's wonderful in everything she does. When I look at her earliest films I'm impressed with her confident star power from the very start, and as you say she was really an outstanding dramatic actress.

Best wishes,

11:06 PM  
Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura, Yep! the Warner Blu Ray is sensational and I love the 2.55 ratio-nice extras too.
It's funny with Cagney,no matter how nasty some of his characters are (Cody Jarrett,
Ralph Cotter) somehow you are always on his side-a testament to the great man's charisma.
His character in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME almost gives us a glimpse of what it would have been
like had Cody Jarrett chosen a show-biz career.
I guess Doris's fans were shocked at the time by this change of direction but she is
wonderful in the film.BTW did you notice an incredibly young Brian Donlevy in one of the
Etting shorts ?

6:44 AM  
Blogger panavia999 said...

John Knight said "a testament to the great man's charisma."
Have you seen "Tribute to A Bad Man"?
That is abother example of Cagney's charisma playing a character who is has the flaws of an absolute ruller of his own kingdom yet honest, honorable, encouraging. Vulnerable to jealousy.
Vengeful when he meets cruelty.

10:29 PM  
Blogger john k said...

TRIBUTE TO A BAD MAN is a wonderful film.
I hope that Warner Archive in their up-grading MGM classics
to Blu Ray have this in the pipeline.
Cagney makes anything worth watching

5:50 AM  

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