Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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Day of the Cagney

Last night I watched 1955's Love Me or Leave Me, an interesting Musical/Gangster movie hybrid starring James Cagney and Doris Day. It's based on the true story of singer Ruth Etting's rise to fame and her fractious marriage to gangster Marty Snyder. I should've known it was a true story pic just from its structure as a barely fleshed out outline of dutifully hit plot points. The deliveries of which feel as though they were long debated by publicists. A tradition continued to this day by films like Walk the Line, ensuring a glorious future of films that tidily synopsise the messy lives of our favourite stars, breezily mentioning the bad spots to put them into a "was it really so bad?" context.

Actually, Day and Cagney are constantly fighting in the movie. In fact, Day never actually displays any affection for Cagney, making it perplexing that the movie skips past their marriage--it's revealed by a newspaper headline in a scene following one where it's suggested Snyder violently raped Etting. Meanwhile, Day showers a loving smile on dull as dirt Cameron Mitchell as piano player Johnny Alderman. Well, not only is he dull, but also obnoxious, continuingly telling Etting how she feels and getting into a snit when she doesn't actually feel that way. And yet it's clear the movie wants us to want them to get together in the end.

But the movie has some good things. There are several full length musical numbers of Day singing songs Etting popularised in the 20s and 30s. And Cagney's performance as Snyder easily makes him the most interesting character in the movie. It's broadly written, and really just a stereotypical blowhard gangster, but Cagney invests in it totally, and perhaps the resonance of Cagney's many great gangster roles of the 30s helped, too. He comes out seeming like the only real person in a movie full of puppets.
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