Love Me Or Leave Me (MGM 1955, Doris Day, James Cagney)

Love Me or Leave Me 1955 Doris Day and james Cagney

Doris Day gave MGM one of her finest performances as famed twenties torch singer Ruth Etting in powerful and compelling drama Love Me or Leave Me. The Hollywood Reporter said “It is a musical with a story so true to human characterization, so powerful in its emotional conflict and so honest in its enquiry into the harsh as well as the exalting side of love, that it qualifies, in every way, as a work of art.”

It also marked the first time since he became a star in 1931 that James Cagney relinquished top billing to an actress. Here he was perfectly cast as limping racketeering laundryman Martin ‘The Gimp’ Snyder, who meets dime-a-dance hostess Ruth Etting in a Chicago club and offers her a chance in a chorus-line, although she really wants to sing. He then persuades a pianist (Cameron Mitchell) to teach her to sing and, Svengali-like, he advances her career. She becomes a popular radio singer, secures a contract with Ziegfeld Follies and is a hit. But Snyder’s influence diminishes in New York and he tries to make her leave. She marries him out of pity, but life with ‘The Gimp’ drives her to drink. A Hollywood contract follows Etting’s Follies success and she is pleased to discover Mitchell is the musical director on her first film. When her marriage to Snyder inevitably breaks up and she seeks a divorce, he assigns his henchman (Harry Bellaver) to watch her and when she allows the pianist to kiss her goodnight, Snyder shoots him.

Producer Joe Pasternak, director Charles Vidor and screenwriters Fuchs and Lennart ensured that Love Me or Leave Me was far superior to the general run of romanticised Hollywood biopics, endowing the story with refreshing realism. The screenplay was rightly rewarded with an Academy Award nomination and Fuchs won the Oscar for his original story. Day delivered the film’s score with accomplished skill and in addition to the period songs, Nicholas Brodszky and Sammy Cahn’s song I’ll Never Stop Loving You received an Academy Award nomination, as did the fine musical direction of Percy Faith and George Stoll. And Wesley C Miller took the film’s sixth nomination for Best Sound Recording. There was strong support for the leads from Mitchell, Bellaver, Robert Keith and Tom Tully in a film that was, for Variety, “a rich canvas of the Roaring ’20s with gutsy and excellent performances.”

Doris Day as Ruth Etting
James Cagney as Martin Snyder
Cameron Mitchell as Johnny Alderman
Robert Keith as Bernard V. Loomis
Tom Tully as Frobisher
Harry Bellaver as Georgie
Richard Gaines as Paul Hunter
Peter Leeds as Fred Taylor
Claude Stroud as Eddie Fulton
Audrey Young as Jingle Girl
John Harding as Greg Trent

crew details
Director: Charles Vidor
Writers: Daniel Fuchs, Isobel Lennart

production details
Country: USA
Network and Production Companies: MGM
Year of Release: 1955
Duration: 122 minutes

Other posts featuring the following