Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Love Me or Leave Me

Cinema Monolith: 8/10 The Monolith
IMDb: 7.2/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: ***½ out of 4

Released on June 10, 1955
Not rated
122 minutes

Directed by Charles Vidor

Written by Daniel Fuchs and Isobel Lennart

Cast: Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell, Robert Keith, Tom Tully, Harry Bellaver, Richard Gaines, Jay Adler, Claire Carleton, Roy Engel, Franklyn Farnum, Bill Hickman, Joe Pasternak, Cosmo Sardo

Well, it happened again: I went into a movie thinking it was one thing, and I found out it was actually another. But this time it wasn’t my fault; when I’d told my sister I was going to watch Love Me or Leave Me, starring Doris Day and James Cagney, she mentioned that it was a remake of My Favorite Wife, a gem which I’ve seen many times before. So imagine my surprise when I sat down a few nights later to watch what I thought would be a 1940s black-and-white romance comedy, and discovered it was actually a 1950s historical musical drama shot in Cinemascope!

Day stars as real-life vocalist Ruth Etting, a 1920s supper club dancer with aspirations of being a big-time singer, who is taken under the wing of a local Chicago gangster named Marty, played by Cagney. At first, Marty’s interested in a hook-up, but he soon sees her potential as an entertainer, and becomes her de-facto manager, using his connections to move her up in the world, from local nightclubs to radio and then on to Broadway. But his hair-trigger temper and jealousy—especially over a piano player (Cameron Mitchell) who has an interest in Etting—could prove harmful to her career.

Never mind this wasn’t the rom-com I was expecting; I thought this was a very entertaining and well-made movie, with outstanding performances from the two leads and some very catchy musical numbers from Day. I’ve seen it labeled as a romance musical, but to me it leaned more towards drama, with the song-and-dance routines thankfully part of the film’s fabric, and not just appearing at random for the sake of a spectacle-hungry audience. And though I’m used to seeing Day in her light comedies, I was very impressed with the skills she displayed as a dramatic actress in this one.

Of course, Cagney was also a standout, in his last gangster role, playing a seemingly-agreeable character who was always teetering on the edge of anger and violence, the type that Dan Duryea used to play so well in noir films of the 1940s. I really believed Cagney in the part, as I did with Day, and though they weren’t the first choices for their roles, I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job with these characters than they did. In fact, Cagney was nominated for an Academy Award for his work, though it’s unfortunate Day wasn’t as well; in my eyes, she certainly deserved to be.

Cagney once said that Love Me or Leave Me was one of his favorites of all the films he’d made, and Day considers her performance here her best; I can’t say I’ve seen enough of their movies to make such declarations myself, but with an Oscar-winning screen story to back it and the endorsements of two of my favorite classic stars, I think it’s safe to say that this one’s worthy of a look. And if you’re a fan of either actor, then it’s definitely a must-see. Oh, and one more thing: the next time my sister comes over, I’ll introduce her to the classic Day remake Move Over, Darling.  (8/10)

8 comments on “Love Me or Leave Me

  1. geelw
    5/13/19

    Or, you can show your sis The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek followed by Knocked Up and say one is a remake of the other. That’ll get you in film jail, but it’s worth it.

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/13/19

      I think it might be more fun to just perplex her, and say Knocked Up is a remake of Miracle.

  2. I chuckled at the assumption this was the remake you thought going in. Really a well made flick with the two at the top of their game. Doris never really went back to this type of movie once Pillow Talk set the balance of her career direction. I believe the film has also been pointed at as a bit of a mirror to Doris’ real life hubby who handled the reigns on her career to the point of signing her on to projects without her consent. Always like Cam Mitchell as well but once the 50’s ended he never got as far as it looked he might in the star making machine. Lastly the remake Move Over, Darling is hilarious and even has a small role for Don Knotts that is a hoot.

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/15/19

      Yes, I’d read that about Doris’ husband…she seemed to have some bad luck when it came relationships. And I didn’t really say much about Cameron Mitchell in my review, but he did a good job as well, and I liked the character he played. And I checked out the IMDb listing for Move Over, Darling, and saw that Knotts was in the cast list, which at first had me wondering if he was playing a part that Tony Randall would normally play. But then you mentioned he had a small role, and I saw he was credited as ‘Shoe Clerk’, so maybe not.

      • Doris uses him as a supposed castaway that she spent time with on the island so hubby isn’t jealous when in fact it was Chuck Connors if I recall. Once again he’s that Barney Fife we all love.

      • Todd Benefiel
        5/15/19

        I thought this was part of my collection, but it isn’t, so I’ll have to track it down…it sounds like fun. And I, too, cannot imagine Don Knotts getting romantically involved with Doris Day…island or no island!

  3. Me Mum bought me up on Calamity Jane, so that is always my go to Doris Day film. Later I realised my Mum wasn’t watching it for Doris because the other film she’s always had on was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Mum loved Howard Keel! Still both those films give me very fond memories.

    To be honest I haven’t seen many Doris Day films. The recent one, a few years ago, was the thriller Midnight Lace which I really enjoyed. I’m also trying to see The Man Who Knew Too Much to tick another Hitchcock off the list. But now Todd, after your great review, I have to tick Love Me or Leave Me off the watch list too. It sounds really good indeed.

    • Todd Benefiel
      5/15/19

      That’s pretty funny about your Mom…I guess the autographed photo of Keel next to her bed wasn’t enough to clue you in! And I’ve seen a number of Day films, but I still need to check out a couple of her ‘mystery/thriller’ films, Midnight Lace and Julie. And I do get a kick out of her ’50s and ’60s comedies, especially the ones co-starring Tony Randall; I’d thought he’d done a bunch of those with her, but I just found out he only did three! But those three are definitely worth a look.

      And though I had fun with her early musicals and later comedies, and thought she did great in both, I must say she really caught me by surprise – and impressed me – with Love Me or Leave Me…I just never pictured her as being not light and comedic. You’ll have to let me know what you think if you’re able to check it out.

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Review Totals

Movies Reviewed: 222

From the Monolith: 123

Movies by Decade

1920s – 0
1930s – 6
1940s – 19
1950s – 35
1960s – 34
1970s – 35
1980s – 33
1990s – 6
2000s – 13
2010s – 41

Movies by Genre

Action/Adventure – 40
Comedy – 35
Crime – 21
Documentary – 5
Drama – 24
Horror – 38
Musical – 1
Mystery/Thriller – 19
Romance – 3
Sci-Fi/Fantasy – 27
Western – 8

Movies by CM Rating

10 star – 10
9 star – 28
8 star – 35
7 star – 31
6 star – 22
5 star – 22
4 star – 23
3 star – 18
2 star – 18
1 star – 12
0 star – 3

Movies by MPAA Rating

Pre-1968 – 89
G – 1
PG – 32
PG-13 – 34
R – 58
NC-17 – 0
TV and Unrated – 8

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