- As Ruth Etting, Day delivers knockout performance, equally matched by Cagney 1/17/2004 12:00:00 AM by bmacv
Before she became America's top box-office star by playing its oldest virgin, Doris Day was an instinctive, if untutored, actress and an accomplished, popular singer. In Charles Vidor's Love Me Or Leave Me, she takes on the part of Ruth Etting, the troubled songstress from the jazz age, and her twin talents merge memorably. It's a faultless performance, all the more impressive for staying understated, scaled down.
Her co-star, James Cagney, takes the low road; as Marty (`The Gimp') Snyder, a lopsided fireplug of a man, he sizzles with resentment and ignites into rages. Strangely, his scenery-chewing complements Day's underplaying; the tension between their temperaments fuels this dark drama which occasionally resembles a musical but is closer at heart to film noir (Vidor, after all, directed Gilda).
A taxi-dancer in a Chicago dive, Day catches Cagney's eye (he holds the linen-laundering concession for the place). Finding she's not the quick pick-up he had in mind, he lands her a job in the kick-line at another nitery he services. When he finds out she wants to be a singer, he arranges for lessons with pianist Cameron Mitchell (who plays the thankless role of the loyal but shoved-aside lover). But Cagney, used to getting what he wants and to browbeating everybody around him into surrender, meets his match in Day. Her quiet determination proves every bit as strong as his bellowing bluster. When it looks like her star is in ascendancy, he becomes her manager, puts her on radio, and snares her a spot in New York as a headliner in the Ziegfeld Follies.
They settle into a grudge-match of a marriage, with guerrilla warfare erupting from both sides. (Cagney's Snyder is a marginally less disturbed version of his Cody Jarrett in White Heat.) One of their flashfire fights takes place in her dressing room after a show. Cagney knocks a vase of flowers across the room; Day extends her arm for him to unclasp a bracelet. They bicker some more, with Cagney losing the argument while Day nurses the drink that has become her ally. He leans over and tells her `You oughtta lay off that stuff ? you're getting to look like an old bag.' It's the chilliest moment in the movie.
In the last third, Day answers a call from Hollywood, which lays the foundation for the unravelling of this messy, nerve-wracking relationship. And if the wrapping up grasps toward the sentimental (with a detour into the melodramatic), it doesn't quite take. Cagney, actor and character, hangs on like a bulldog with a bone. The Marty Snyders never change, and Cagney knows it; he stays the self-deluded small-time hood he started out as, who can't accept that he's driven away a woman he can't believe he loves so much.
Day, however, rises to a magnanimity that rings hollow. Her steely self-confidence about where her talents would bring her, and her casual callousness in using Cagney to help her get there, make her final gesture improbable. But when she takes the spotlight, singing `Mean to Me' or `Ten Cents A Dance' (with her feet planted provocatively ? defiantly ? apart), Day, actress and character, takes it by natural right. The voice isn't quite right ? Etting's was reedy and tremulous, Day's big and secure ? but the assurance and style are dead on.
- classy and glossy biopic 4/4/2004 12:00:00 AM by didi-5
Doris Day plays Ruth Etting, torch singer of the twenties and thirties, in this glossy MGM biopic. Several key songs from Etting's career are covered, sung well by Day (specifically Ten Cents a Dance, You Made Me Love You, and Love Me or Leave Me).
Although Day is effective in the role and looks a treat, the best acting performance in the movie comes from James Cagney as Marty ?The Gimp' Snyder, Etting's manager and husband. Cameron Mitchell plays Johnny the loyal piano player who waits for Etting to find her own way, while Robert Keith is good as Barney, close friend to both Snyder and his wife.
Good Technicolor and a Cinemascope treatment makes the movie look good, and the arrangements are excellent. Day is nothing like the real Ruth Etting either in looks or voice, but she does well in one of her last great musical roles.
- Smashing "Gangster Musical" 8/22/2002 12:00:00 AM by harry-76
"Love Me Or Leave Me" has been critically lauded and publicly supported. I can only concede it's a very fine music/drama/biopic.
What's so unique about this film is it's skillfully combining the "gangster" element with the "musical" genre. The bio-based storyline plays out like somewhat like a crime drama, while the musical portion rings forth with twelve complete full-bodied numbers.
The casting is truly inspired: what a coup getting Doris Day, at the peak of her physical, acting and vocal powers to be cast in a real-life role, while snaring the brilliant, often breathtaking James Cagney--forever at the peak of his powers--as the indestructible "Gimp."
Together they create fireworks, playing off one another's sweet 'n' sour characterizations with great relish. How amusing it is to see Cagney having fun with his deft limp-walk and grueling thug-character, complemented by Day's equally enjoyable, contrastingly lovable persona.
The songs are all very beautiful, and expertly rendered by Day in this, a wonderful tribute to her vocal talent and impressive musicianship.
The script is well-written to utilize the stars' individual gifts, and the widescreen production is a delight to watch. After all these years, "Love Me Or Leave Me" holds its own, thanks to the contributions of two now-legendary stars.
- Doris Day Deserved An Oscar Nomination For This Film 4/11/2002 12:00:00 AM by Blooeyz2001
This film pre-dates & set the standard for films like Barbra Streisand's "Funny Girl" & Diana Ross' "Lady Sings The Blues", two other great films which showcased singers in acting roles playing real-life people. "Love Me Or Leave Me" was Doris Day's MGM "extravagaza" (after several formula, cookie-cutter musicals at Warner Bros.) playing Ruth Etting a torch singer from the 1920's. She is at her dramatic best & never looked sexier. Her voice is as pleasing as ever & the songs are very enjoyable ("At Sundown", "Love Me Or Leave Me", "Shaking The Blues Away", & "Mean To Me", among others). Some of Doris' fans were distraught to see her drinking & scheming to climb her way to the top, but the fact of the matter is she was playing someone else & she was very convincing. James Cagney was grating as Marty "The Gimp" Snyder the Chicago gangster who helped Etting attain her show biz goals. This film displays all that Doris Day could have been if she had continued to find meaty roles to her acting advantage. When most people think of her, they think of the fluffy bedroom comedies she did with Rock Hudson, Cary Grant & James Garner.("Pillow Talk", "Lover Come Back", "That Touch of Mink"...), the virginal persona, the freckles, etc. If you're only familiar with those films you should see this & you'll be impressed. (I recently heard Jennifer Lopez wants to re-make this film, God help us all!!)
- Great performances, great singing highlight the story of Ruth Etting 9/4/2006 12:00:00 AM by blanche-2
Doris Day portrays singing great Ruth Etting in "Love Me or Leave Me," a 1955 film costarring James Cagney and Cameron Mitchell. The film tells the story, somewhat fictionalized, of Etting's rise to fame in the 1920s and her association and marriage to Marty "The Gimp" Snyder, a Chicago gangster. In the story, Etting is highly ambitious, and Marty helps her career after picking her up in a dance hall and realizing he's not going to get anywhere. He's hoping for the big prize - i.e., Ruth - at the end of the rainbow, but though she's grateful, she's never going to be THAT grateful. Finally, he becomes so angry that he rapes her (this is suggested in the film but the scene was cut by the censors). She marries him, though she's in love with a pianist, Marty Alderman.
This film was made about five years before Ross Hunter glamorized Doris and made her the #1 box office star in a series of comedies, three of which were with Rock Hudson. Before that, she was a pretty woman with a sweet, smooth voice and sturdy acting ability. And nowhere does she demonstrate all three qualities as she does here. And throw in a sensational figure in some stunning gowns to boot. Doris' Ruth is a young woman who looks and acts like sugar but has the determination of steel underneath. She speaks softly but has the glint of ambition in her eye. Day's voice and style are nothing like Etting's, but the producers and director weren't looking for an imitation. Doris looks and sounds fantastic, singing a huge amount of music, including "Ten Cents a Dance," the title song, "Chasing the Blues Away" and many others.
Cagney gives an extremely powerful performance as Marty, a pushy little man with a huge insecurity and a passion for Ruth. It is a fully fleshed out portrayal of an abusive, possessive man that you can hate and pity at the same time. Cagney deservedly won an Oscar nomination for the role of Marty. He and Doris' contrasting acting styles mesh beautifully as well.
Though there were liberties taken with the Etting story, if you read her bio, it sounds just like the film. Did the movie have a '20s and the '30s feel to it? Not really. But it doesn't matter. The film is in color and has a rich look, and what a score. What actors. A must see.