Love Me or Leave Me
Release year: 1955
Director: Charles Vidor
Screenwriter: Daniel Fuchs, Isobel Lennart
Starring: Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell, Robert Keith, Tom Tully, Harry Bellaver, Richard Gaines
Ratings: 1 Oscar: Best Writing. 5 Oscar nominations: Best Actor (James Cagney), Best Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Original Song, Best Music.
Sunday Classic #262, week 26 2019
The fictionalized story of Ruth Etting (Day), a singer and actress, and her way from dance girl to movie star due to aggressive promoting from gangster Martin ‘Moe’ Snyder (Cagney).
Day (Pillow Talk, 1959) was best known for her cheery and sunny parts, often as an independent woman. But here she may be independent in the way that she stands up for herself, but she is also a woman who finds herself high in gratitude debt to a man not taking no for an answer. The role is heavier than what the blonde woman with the bright smile usually played and is undoubtedly one of her very finest dramatic performances. Cagney (Angels With Dirty Faces, 1938) was famed for playing gangster in the 1930’s and 1940’s and playing the mobster in love must have been a walk in the park. Though it mostly feels like Ruth is in control of things, Cagney manage to bring a growing unease to the movie that leaves you worried for what’s to come. Next to the two Mitchell (How to Marry a Millionaire, 1953) pales in comparison despite giving an incredible charming performance as the last part of the love triangle. It is just that Day and cagney have the most interesting parts of the movie not to say the best fleshed out characters. If you don’t expect sunny and sweet but yearn for something more dramatic, this is the Doris Day movie for you and any fan of this popular actress owe it to themselves, and Day herself, to watch this fine performance of hers.
After this film was released, Doris Day was deluged with mail from fans attacking her, a Christian Scientist, for playing a lewd woman who smoked, drank, and wore scant costumes in the nightclub scenes. Day cared about everyone who was disturbed by her characterization, and she answered every piece of mail, explaining the necessity for realism, and that it was essential to separate actress Doris Day from character Ruth Etting. She felt that as a performer, she had the same responsibility to the public that a politician has to the electorate
This was the only time, after becoming a star in the 1930s, that James Cagney ever accepted second billing for a major role. He thought that Doris Day’s character was more central to the film’s plot, and so ceded top billing to her.
While this film was widely expected to garner Doris Day a Best Actress Oscar nomination, Cagney got his third Best Actor nomination and Day was completely overlooked. She would later be a Best Actress contender for her 1959 hit Pillow Talk, the one and only time she was ever up for an Academy Award.
If you feel like watching the movie yourself, purchase it by clicking the image below:
Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video