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Love Me or Leave Me

Posted: 16 Oct 2005, 16:59
by Ralph
Love Me Or Leave Me
Cast: Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell, Robert Keith,Tom Tully, Harry Bellaver, Richard Gaines and Peter Leeds

Directed by: Charles Vidor
Screenplay by: Daniel Fuchs and Isobel Lennart
Distributor: MGM
Runtime: 122 min
Rating: NR
Year: 1955

Neither a Doris Day musical nor a ferocious James Cagney gangster film, Love Me or Leave Me is a fascinating hybrid. It's actually a slow crawl through a hellish relationship: the girl loves her career more than her man, using him as a loyal patron; he inwardly seethes and takes every opportunity to psychically knock her down even as he helps her to fulfill her dreams. Nightclub-singer-turned-actress Ruth Etting (Day) was "discovered" by gangster Martin the Gimp (Cagney). He initially secures her stage work to get in her pants, but when he discovers her silky jazz voice—realizing her talent and her potential—he falls hard. Though the scenes between them take on the repetitive cycle of domestic abuse and forgiveness, it's a surprisingly complex portrayal of those twisted feelings. Day gives one of her better performances, not relying on her gorgeous body and cute smile. When playing opposite her generous co-star Cagney, her limited acting ability actually takes on a stoic kind of depth. Ruth is given heaps of abuse and limitations by the Gimp, and never asks for pity. Instead, she accepts this lot in exchange for the ability to shine as a singer, where Day is inherently graceful and sexy. Her 12 musical numbers all light a fire, helped by Cagney's eager intensity on the sidelines. If we don't necessarily want her to stay with this corrupt boor, we at least understand her motivation and see how difficult it is for her to weave her way out. Cagney offers not only unbridled rage but also insecurity, shame, warmth, and encouragement in rapid-fire beats, well deserving his Academy Award nomination that year. Ruth and the Gimp were both still alive when the movie was made, and though Love Me or Leave Me has an edge, it does pull punches: When Ruth slips into alcoholism, it never feels ugly enough, Day's crying scenes feel increasingly strained, and the Gimp gets off a little too easy at the end, after attempting violence on the piano player (an indifferent Cameron Mitchell) he believes to be her lover. But the first time the Gimp and Ruth have sex, discreetly offscreen, Love Me or Leave Me shows the chilling moment right before: Ruth falling on the bed, giving in to the inevitable, as the Gimp grins wolfishly before lunging for her. The production values, cinematography, and script are all adequate, the running time too long, and the story too cyclical to rate this one a classic. But it's bold for its time, and the unlikely pairing of Cagney and Day generates bleak chemistry that feels like the worst, most painful kind of love.

Jeremiah Kipp
© slant magazine, 2005.

DVD Review: Love Me or Leave Me

Miss Ruth Etting showing a side of her personality that did not make it into the MGM film.

Love Me or Leave Me

Posted: 16 Oct 2005, 17:57
by Ken
This movie is one of my favorites Doris did a fantastic job.

DVD Review

Posted: 16 Oct 2005, 21:32
by Ralph
Love Me or Leave Me

This title is also available as part of a box set:
Doris Day Collection


All Movie Guide

One of the gutsiest movie musicals of the 1950s, Love Me or Leave Me is the true story of 1930s torch-singer Ruth Etting, here played by Doris Day. While working in a dime-a-dance joint, Ruth is discovered by Chicago racketeer Martin "The Gimp" Snyder (fascinatingly played with nary a redeeming quality by James Cagney). The smitten Snyder exerts pressure on his show-biz connections, and before long Ruth is a star of nightclubs, stage and films. Ruth continues to string Snyder along to get ahead, but she can't help falling in love with musician Johnny Alderman (Cameron Mitchell). After sinking his fortune into a nightclub for Ruth's benefit, Snyder is rather understandably put out when he finds her in the arms of Alderman. Snyder shoots the musician (but not fatally) and is carted away to prison. Upon his release, Snyder finds that Ruth is still in love with Alderman; he is mollified by her act of largesse in keeping her promise to perform in his nightclub at a fraction of her normal salary. No one comes off particularly nobly in Love Me or Leave Me, even though the still-living Ruth Etting, Martin Snyder and Johnny Alderman were offered full script approval. The fact that we are seeing flesh-and-blood opportunists rather than the usual sugary-sweet MGM musical stick figures naturally makes for a more powerful film. In his autobiography, James Cagney had nothing but praise for his co-star Doris Day, and bemoaned the fact that she would soon turn her back on dramatic roles to star in a series of fluffy domestic comedies.

Hal Erickson



The real Ruth & Marty and Cagney & Day.


Posted: 17 Oct 2005, 00:44
by Ray L
This is oe of my favorite DD films. Its top acting and singing. Shake those blues away...

Love me or leave me

Posted: 17 Oct 2005, 08:26
by Jas1
There is no denying this film was an important land mark in Doris Day's career - I see it that she had finally joined the "grown ups" in Hollywood hierarchy. No film ever had a better score and Doris' jazzy interpretations are top notch. This was the start too of Doris' co-starring with the true greats of Hollywood.

Posted: 17 Oct 2005, 19:15
by Deadpan-Diva
I love this movie. It's not my favorite Doris Day movie but it is definately one of her best performances.

Woody Allen quote

Posted: 17 Dec 2005, 14:00
by joe t.
Liz Smith quotes Woody Allen:

“. . . I saw Love Me Or Leave Me with Doris Day three days running when it was first released. And those imprints stay with you forever."

Posted: 17 Dec 2005, 17:32
by Debbi Austen
When you see other musical biography films of that time, they are usually so far from the truth. They are made to be funny, and enteraining. Then along comes this gritty film. It is a multilayered film of abuse and love. I saw a picture of the main charachers and wondered, was he really the big gangster that he was portayed to be in this film, or was this put in for Cagney?

The songs and the costumes are terriffic. I rated this film excellent, although this is not one of my favorite DD fims. I can't stand to see women abused in films. I usually fast forward to DD songs.


Posted: 02 Jan 2006, 13:42
by DorisDayFanatic
I thought that that Love Me Or Leave Me was supern truly one of the best doris day movies ever produced. The songs were so beautiful, and I thought that she and James Cagney really worked well with each other. I rejoiced when it came out on dvd in April of last year. Such a beautiful touching film, about how young RUth Etting went from a chorus girl to the top.

A tad off topic, but I notice that Debbie Austen was talking about musical biography films and how they are usualyl so far from the truth. A fantastic musical biogrpahy is WIth A Song In My Heart. 50's. Susan Hayward stars as Jane Froman. It is such a beautiful heart warming story, I found myself crying through most of it so sweet and touching, and how Ruth passed through everything like when the plane crashed and she was paralyzed. ANd was so upset and disturbed but her nurse Clancy (magnificently portrayed by Thelma Ritter) convinces her to go out there and get it done. whicj Jane does even though she is paralyzed she manages to stand on platform by being tied to the piano. And sings away as beautiul as ever and it brings a huge tear to your eye when you here her singing With A Song In My Heart. I had never heard of Jame Froman prior to this but trust me this movie is still a heartwarming masterpiece that I highly suggest to all.

Mean to (her)

Posted: 03 Jan 2006, 08:16
by Jas1
I think Susan Hayward is great but as has been pointed out before, she received several Oscar nods in her time - some for biopics where she mimed to the music. Now Miss Day did it all her self and so gracefully, stylishly and honestly - that is what is annoying about the lack of critical acclaim for her performcances, especially in Love me or leave me.

Posted: 22 Feb 2006, 08:31
by jmichael
This is my absolute favorite Doris Day film. The role of Ruth Etting was the most dramatically challenging of her career and she matched Jimmy Cagney every step of the way. It's interesting to watch how great she is opposite another stellar performer like Cagney. Her singing was absolute perfection in this film.

I wish Doris had made other edgier films along with the romantic comedies. The unfortunate events in her personal life and her innate sensitivity gave her a wealth of life experience to draw from as an actress. I don't think Hollywood (or perhaps Melcher) gave her the opportunities to realize her full potential as a dramatic actress.

Posted: 23 Feb 2006, 00:17
by Debbi Austen
After this film and some of her other early films, (because she was a natural), I wonder how anyone could accept for her a bad director, sub par scripts. But, I think it was because it was easy to make money with her name. If she ever disliked any of her co stars, you could never tell. Her acting was genuine. She always gave 100%.

Posted: 04 Apr 2006, 09:26
by Debbi Austen
I celebrated Doris' birthday by watching Love Me or Leave Me again.

On the Ruth Etting website they claim there is a remake on the way. Who are they considering for Doris' part? Jennifer Lopez and Angelia Jolie. I can't even imagine this. It's always a bad idea to do a remake that originally starred screen legends.

Posted: 05 Apr 2006, 08:23
by Ken
The remake of Midnight Lace was TERRIBLE!!!

Posted: 05 Apr 2006, 08:23
by Debbi Austen
Yes, Lauren, what kind of left handed compliment is that? No wonder she was compelled to make Julie!

Do you think it is difficult to act and sing at the same time? Everytime I watch her sing I am mesmerized, not only by her voice, but by the way she expresses her emotions through each song. I think she had a lot to do with this picture getting Oscar nominations for best song and best score.

Many people ask why she wasn't nominated for an Oscar for this film. This is my opinion, but I think it had something to do with the script. There has to be a speech or a dialog, that really allows you to show your acting ability. James Cagney has many opportunities and speeches to show off his acting ability this movie. He was nominated for best actor in this picture (and he deserved it). The character of Ruth Etting didn't really stand up for herself, she acted out her emotions in song. I guess you don't get an Oscar for that.


Posted: 30 Jul 2006, 15:51
by Ralph
It was James Cagney who suggested to producer Joe Pasternak that he cast Doris Day in the role of Ruth Etting. They had worked together previously in The West Point Story (1950).

According to an interview with Ruth Etting, she never actually worked as a dance hall hostess. This was dramatic fiction, to underscore the song "Ten Cents a Dance".

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.

The character James Cagney played, Martin Snyder (aka "Moe the Gimp"), was portrayed in the film as a small-time hood. Ironically he ended up working in the license department in Chicago's City Hall.

Jane Russell turned down the opportunity to play Ruth Etting in hopes of landing the role of Lillian Roth in I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955). That role ended up going to Susan Hayward, leaving Russell with neither part.

Average Shot Length (ASL) = 15 seconds

Ava Gardner desperately wanted the role of Ruth Etting but MGM went with James Cagney's suggestion of casting Doris Day instead.

Posted: 30 Jul 2006, 18:52
by Katie
In Ava's autobio, she said she was supposed to play Ruth Etting, but she was on suspension...

Ralph, do you know if D was ever put on suspension at WB? I don't reember if she ways this in her book...

Posted: 30 Jul 2006, 19:05
by Ken
I could not see Jane Russell playing Ruth Etting or any other serious role. I never thought of her as a serious actress.

No, She Never Did...

Posted: 30 Jul 2006, 22:23
by Ralph
Doris Day was considering not doing "Lucky Me." If she had, she would have gone on suspension without pay. After speaking with her spirtual advisor, she decided to do the film and, as a professional, she put 110% of herself in a movie she hated. But, film is forever. Doris understood that this film would become apart of her filmography and she didn't want to put a bad performance on film to be judged negatively forever. Critics didn't like it much, but they certainly couldn't fault its star!

Personally, I loved "Lucky Me," and I think that she gave a wonderful performance, but I do understand why she didn't want to do it, especially with Warner Brothers bringing MGM's Judy Garland in to star in the lavish and spectacular dramatic musical, "A Star is Born."

Re: No, She Never Did...

Posted: 31 Jul 2006, 00:13
by bluebird1115
Ralph wrote:I do understand why she didn't want to do it, especially with Warner Brothers bringing MGM's Judy Garland in to star in the lavish and spectacular dramatic musical, "A Star is Born."
STAR was not a WB project, it was a Sidney Luft production through Transcona Enterprises. Doris would have had to have been hired by Luft, Garland's husband, to get that role. WB was only the backer and distributor.

She was right to dislike LUCKY ME. It was a terrible picture.

Ava etc

Posted: 31 Jul 2006, 05:18
by Jas1
I read Ava Gardner turned down Love me or Leave me because MGM were going to dub her singing voice again and after what she went through with Show Boat - she said no!

Whilst Ava's voice was nice (and didn't warrant dubbing);and was suited to Show Boat ,- it could never have reached the perfection of Doris' in LMOLM.

Re: No, She Never Did...

Posted: 31 Jul 2006, 08:07
by Ralph
bluebird1115 wrote:
Ralph wrote:I do understand why she didn't want to do it, especially with Warner Brothers bringing MGM's Judy Garland in to star in the lavish and spectacular dramatic musical, "A Star is Born."
STAR was not a WB project, it was a Sidney Luft production through Transcona Enterprises. Doris would have had to have been hired by Luft, Garland's husband, to get that role. WB was only the backer and distributor.

She was right to dislike LUCKY ME. It was a terrible picture.
It doesn't matter, "A Star..." was shot at Warner Brothers on a soundstage right next to Doris' "Lucky Me." I have the movie and when it starts you see the WB logo, that's all you needed to throw it in Day's face. From what I've read, WB had a lot to say about the production, even ordering that already shot footage be re-done because WB wanted the film shot in CinemaScope. Most of the publicity shots are those of Judy with Jack Warner, head of he studio.

When I look at "Star" I see extras wearing the same costumes they wore in "Lucky Me." Take a look at Lucy Marlowe, who was in the party scene in Day's film. She looked as if she did a scene in "Star" and then walked across the street to do another scene in "Lucky."

Posted: 10 Aug 2006, 11:59
by Debbi Austen
I heard on TCM that Ruth Etting wanted Jane Powell to play her in Love Me or Leave Me (I can't even imagine this). But as we all know D D got the part and MGM gave Jane the part in Hit The Deck. Jane was so upset that she didn't get this break out role, that she went indepentant after Hit the Deck.

Posted: 02 May 2007, 17:41
by dayniac
She was great in this movie - not only as an actress but as a singer. She sang every type of song in this movie - 20's flapper - broadway star - tough dame - torch singer - love songs ! All fantastic.
I hate that quote that Cagney brought out the best in Doris Day. Cagney knew she could be a serious actress - he asked for her to be in this movie. No one even considered her for the part until he said -" get little Doris Day". I find this a hard movie to watch because of the abusive relationship between them. But, she was truely great in this movie. And, the musical numbers were wonderful.
She deserved an oscar nod for this part.

Love me.....

Posted: 03 May 2007, 05:52
by Jas1
Much as I love Ava Gardner, this part was certainly hers for the taking and i am so glad she turned it down - allowing Doris to get it. Ava was livid with MGM for promising she could use her own singing voice on 'showboat' and then going back on this and she was determined never to do a musical again [especially one with so much singing] having her voice dubbed. Actually Ava's voice was really nice, but certainly not in the same league as Doris'.

Interesting the actresses that apparently were offered this part - we have Ava [for sure], and now Jane Powell. Lauren Bacall says in her book she was offered it too as does Jane Russell. I think I read too that it was offered to Lana Turner. Any more? One thing is for sure, they struck Gold with Miss Day.