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Saturday, May 24, 2008

LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME (1955)


After his incendiary perf in WHITE HEAT/’49, James Cagney hit a dry patch. His stylized larger-than-life acting looked forced instead of invigorating. But, champ that he was, he took ‘54 off and returned in ‘55 with a smash cameo (George M Cohan for THE 7 LITTLE FOYS), an off-beat Western for hot helmer Nick Ray (RUN FOR COVER), the biggest hit of the year (MISTER ROBERTS) and an Oscar nom for his brutal, yet inexplicably sympathetic turn as the love-struck mobster who guides Doris Day’s Ruth Etting to stardom. Day gets a parcel of hit tunes to sing though there’s zero attempt to sound like Etting. The parallels with FUNNY GIRL are obvious, Isobel Lennart scripted both, but Scorsese & De Niro also took notes for NEW YORK, NEW YORK. Megger Charles Vidor is all but frozen solid in his first CinemaScope assignment, but the film has pace and a bit more period flavor than was usual for a mid '50s pic.

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