LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME

(1955)
With Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell, Robert Keith, Tom Tully
Directed by Charles Vidor
Reviewed by JL

     Doris Day and James Cagney star in a powerful musical drama about 1920s torch singer Ruth Etting and her tumultuous relationship with her sadistic husband-manager Martin "The Gimp" Snyder.  Cagney's fiery, Oscar-nominated performance is a terrifying wonder.  Though Marty Snyder is a man who lives with uncontrollable demons and rages 24/7, Cagney makes a distinction between Snyder's everyday obstreperousness and the raging anguish that results from his unrequited love for Etting, who is as emotionally cruel to him as he is physically abusive to her.  But the real revelation of the film is Day, who in this film and in Hitchcock's THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1956) proves herself a dramatic actress of great depth.  (Cagney himself was enormously impressed with Day and insisted she be given top billing, against the studio's wishes.)  It's something of a shame that Day is best remembered today for the fluffy bedroom farces that demanded so little from such a narrow range of her talent.  She is overdue for reappraisal as both the greatest female popular singer of all time, as well as a dramatic and comedic actress of extraordinary range.  ½ - JL

James Cagney     The Stuff You Gotta Watch

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