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  • Before she became America's top box-office star by playing its oldest virgin, Doris Day was an instinctive, if untutored, actress and an accomplished, popular singer. In Charles Vidor's Love Me Or Leave Me, she takes on the part of Ruth Etting, the troubled songstress from the jazz age, and her twin talents merge memorably. It's a faultless performance, all the more impressive for staying understated, scaled down.

    Her co-star, James Cagney, takes the low road; as Marty (`The Gimp') Snyder, a lopsided fireplug of a man, he sizzles with resentment and ignites into rages. Strangely, his scenery-chewing complements Day's underplaying; the tension between their temperaments fuels this dark drama which occasionally resembles a musical but is closer at heart to film noir (Vidor, after all, directed Gilda).

    A taxi-dancer in a Chicago dive, Day catches Cagney's eye (he holds the linen-laundering concession for the place). Finding she's not the quick pick-up he had in mind, he lands her a job in the kick-line at another nitery he services. When he finds out she wants to be a singer, he arranges for lessons with pianist Cameron Mitchell (who plays the thankless role of the loyal but shoved-aside lover). But Cagney, used to getting what he wants and to browbeating everybody around him into surrender, meets his match in Day. Her quiet determination proves every bit as strong as his bellowing bluster. When it looks like her star is in ascendancy, he becomes her manager, puts her on radio, and snares her a spot in New York as a headliner in the Ziegfeld Follies.

    They settle into a grudge-match of a marriage, with guerrilla warfare erupting from both sides. (Cagney's Snyder is a marginally less disturbed version of his Cody Jarrett in White Heat.) One of their flashfire fights takes place in her dressing room after a show. Cagney knocks a vase of flowers across the room; Day extends her arm for him to unclasp a bracelet. They bicker some more, with Cagney losing the argument while Day nurses the drink that has become her ally. He leans over and tells her `You oughtta lay off that stuff – you're getting to look like an old bag.' It's the chilliest moment in the movie.

    In the last third, Day answers a call from Hollywood, which lays the foundation for the unravelling of this messy, nerve-wracking relationship. And if the wrapping up grasps toward the sentimental (with a detour into the melodramatic), it doesn't quite take. Cagney, actor and character, hangs on like a bulldog with a bone. The Marty Snyders never change, and Cagney knows it; he stays the self-deluded small-time hood he started out as, who can't accept that he's driven away a woman he can't believe he loves so much.

    Day, however, rises to a magnanimity that rings hollow. Her steely self-confidence about where her talents would bring her, and her casual callousness in using Cagney to help her get there, make her final gesture improbable. But when she takes the spotlight, singing `Mean to Me' or `Ten Cents A Dance' (with her feet planted provocatively – defiantly – apart), Day, actress and character, takes it by natural right. The voice isn't quite right – Etting's was reedy and tremulous, Day's big and secure – but the assurance and style are dead on.
  • I never had to be convinced that Doris Day was a fine actress--from her first film ('Romance on the High Seas') which she stole from veterans like Jack Carson and Janis Paige--to 'Storm Warning' (her first dramatic role as Ginger Rogers' sister)--she never made a false move. But her real acting triumph came with this hard-hitting Ruth Etting biography in which she does an amazing job as the torch singer involved with a gangster boyfriend (James Cagney). Cagney has never been more impressive as the Chicago hood who manages her career--and Day manages to match him every step of the way with a gutsy, heart-felt performance.

    Also shown to good advantage is Cameron Mitchell as an admirer with real affection for Day. Their scenes together have a poignant quality because you know how deep the feelings go on both sides. Day's rendition of a haunting ballad, 'I'll Never Stop Loving You', is one of the film's highlights--along with 'Ten Cents A Dance', 'Mean to Me', 'Love Me Or Leave Me', etc. She is simply brilliant.

    The high quality of the Oscar-winning script (Best Story) is a tribute to the overall quality of the film itself. A highly dramatic musical, it makes you wonder what Day's career might have been like if she remained at Metro for more such films rather than the sugar-and-spice things she did at Warner Bros. Some of them were charming (the old-fashioned musicals with Gordon MacRae), but since she was a fine dramatic actress she could have done so much more. Day's voice is a sheer pleasure here--perfect pitch, warm tones and easy on the ears. Nobody could sing a ballad like Doris does here. 'I'll Never Stop Loving You' is my favorite.

    Summing up: highly recommended as one of the best musical biographies you're ever likely to see.
  • Doris Day plays Ruth Etting, torch singer of the twenties and thirties, in this glossy MGM biopic. Several key songs from Etting's career are covered, sung well by Day (specifically Ten Cents a Dance, You Made Me Love You, and Love Me or Leave Me).

    Although Day is effective in the role and looks a treat, the best acting performance in the movie comes from James Cagney as Marty ‘The Gimp' Snyder, Etting's manager and husband. Cameron Mitchell plays Johnny the loyal piano player who waits for Etting to find her own way, while Robert Keith is good as Barney, close friend to both Snyder and his wife.

    Good Technicolor and a Cinemascope treatment makes the movie look good, and the arrangements are excellent. Day is nothing like the real Ruth Etting either in looks or voice, but she does well in one of her last great musical roles.
  • "Love Me Or Leave Me" has been critically lauded and publicly supported. I can only concede it's a very fine music/drama/biopic.

    What's so unique about this film is it's skillfully combining the "gangster" element with the "musical" genre. The bio-based storyline plays out like somewhat like a crime drama, while the musical portion rings forth with twelve complete full-bodied numbers.

    The casting is truly inspired: what a coup getting Doris Day, at the peak of her physical, acting and vocal powers to be cast in a real-life role, while snaring the brilliant, often breathtaking James Cagney--forever at the peak of his powers--as the indestructible "Gimp."

    Together they create fireworks, playing off one another's sweet 'n' sour characterizations with great relish. How amusing it is to see Cagney having fun with his deft limp-walk and grueling thug-character, complemented by Day's equally enjoyable, contrastingly lovable persona.

    The songs are all very beautiful, and expertly rendered by Day in this, a wonderful tribute to her vocal talent and impressive musicianship.

    The script is well-written to utilize the stars' individual gifts, and the widescreen production is a delight to watch. After all these years, "Love Me Or Leave Me" holds its own, thanks to the contributions of two now-legendary stars.
  • This film pre-dates & set the standard for films like Barbra Streisand's "Funny Girl" & Diana Ross' "Lady Sings The Blues", two other great films which showcased singers in acting roles playing real-life people. "Love Me Or Leave Me" was Doris Day's MGM "extravagaza" (after several formula, cookie-cutter musicals at Warner Bros.) playing Ruth Etting a torch singer from the 1920's. She is at her dramatic best & never looked sexier. Her voice is as pleasing as ever & the songs are very enjoyable ("At Sundown", "Love Me Or Leave Me", "Shaking The Blues Away", & "Mean To Me", among others). Some of Doris' fans were distraught to see her drinking & scheming to climb her way to the top, but the fact of the matter is she was playing someone else & she was very convincing. James Cagney was grating as Marty "The Gimp" Snyder the Chicago gangster who helped Etting attain her show biz goals. This film displays all that Doris Day could have been if she had continued to find meaty roles to her acting advantage. When most people think of her, they think of the fluffy bedroom comedies she did with Rock Hudson, Cary Grant & James Garner.("Pillow Talk", "Lover Come Back", "That Touch of Mink"...), the virginal persona, the freckles, etc. If you're only familiar with those films you should see this & you'll be impressed. (I recently heard Jennifer Lopez wants to re-make this film, God help us all!!)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (Contains one small spoiler.) After purchasing the tape of this film, all I can say is the sooner it goes to DVD, the better. LMOLM is a scintillating musical bio, rich in production value from costumes to set pieces and beautiful stereophonic sound. And, of course, its two stars are electric together- perhaps even more so because they are so mismatched. Doris Day (playing wonderfully against type) stars as 1920's chanteuse Ruth Etting (who needs discovery badly); James Cagney is gangster Marty Snyder who comes to her professional rescue, and the amazing thing is that had the film ended on just this oil-and-water partnership alone, it would've been sensational. They are both schemers; the difference is, Day's Etting is more subtle about her climb to stardom, getting all the help she can from Cagney while slipping quietly under his brutish radar. But when it's time for her to sing- whether it's just with a rehearsal piano or the Ziegfeld Follies- she delivers the goods in some of the most heartbreaking torch songs ever delivered on film. (Listen to her renditions of "It All Depends on You," "Never Look Back," or "Ten Cents A Dance.") Their parry-and-thrust relationship reaches a horrible, brutal peak in a scene which Day wrote in her 1975 autobiography was actually shot as a full-blown rape, but drastically edited down by release time. The film realistically shows warts on both of the leads, and illustrates that, in spite of their better interests, they both need each other. Cagney was great, but Day was phenomenal, and should've been nominated for an Oscar right alongside her co-star. Oh well, 'que sera...,' whoops, wrong movie. You gotta see this one!
  • Doris Day portrays singing great Ruth Etting in "Love Me or Leave Me," a 1955 film costarring James Cagney and Cameron Mitchell. The film tells the story, somewhat fictionalized, of Etting's rise to fame in the 1920s and her association and marriage to Marty "The Gimp" Snyder, a Chicago gangster. In the story, Etting is highly ambitious, and Marty helps her career after picking her up in a dance hall and realizing he's not going to get anywhere. He's hoping for the big prize - i.e., Ruth - at the end of the rainbow, but though she's grateful, she's never going to be THAT grateful. Finally, he becomes so angry that he rapes her (this is suggested in the film but the scene was cut by the censors). She marries him, though she's in love with a pianist, Marty Alderman.

    This film was made about five years before Ross Hunter glamorized Doris and made her the #1 box office star in a series of comedies, three of which were with Rock Hudson. Before that, she was a pretty woman with a sweet, smooth voice and sturdy acting ability. And nowhere does she demonstrate all three qualities as she does here. And throw in a sensational figure in some stunning gowns to boot. Doris' Ruth is a young woman who looks and acts like sugar but has the determination of steel underneath. She speaks softly but has the glint of ambition in her eye. Day's voice and style are nothing like Etting's, but the producers and director weren't looking for an imitation. Doris looks and sounds fantastic, singing a huge amount of music, including "Ten Cents a Dance," the title song, "Chasing the Blues Away" and many others.

    Cagney gives an extremely powerful performance as Marty, a pushy little man with a huge insecurity and a passion for Ruth. It is a fully fleshed out portrayal of an abusive, possessive man that you can hate and pity at the same time. Cagney deservedly won an Oscar nomination for the role of Marty. He and Doris' contrasting acting styles mesh beautifully as well.

    Though there were liberties taken with the Etting story, if you read her bio, it sounds just like the film. Did the movie have a '20s and the '30s feel to it? Not really. But it doesn't matter. The film is in color and has a rich look, and what a score. What actors. A must see.
  • I am NOT a fan of Doris Day - there is just something about her that annoys me. But in this movie she acted very different from the usual Doris Day movie. And the way she sang those ballads breaks your heart. But the acting job that truly amazes - and has through the years made me a fan - is that of James Cagney. One wonders if he had a parent that was abusive or an Uncle or someone he had intimately observed. Because from somewhere that man understood something about an abusive relationship and put it in his performance. It was positively beyond extraordinary. He deserved an Academy Nomination at the very least. While he was cruel, vile, despicable, certainly repulsive and yet you felt at the same time he was pitiful, sad, pathetic. It was an extremely complex performance. When I saw "Love Me Or Leave Me" as a teenager I didn't appreciate the subtlety of his acting. It wasn't until I saw it many, many years later and had gone through a lot of living that I comprehended the true magnitude of his performance.
  • Not being a great Cagney fan, I didn't have high hopes for this film when I first saw it. The only reason I did watch it was Doris Day. Boy, am I glad I did. Anyone who questions Day's acting abilities should take a look at this film. Personally, I've always thought she was one of Hollywood's few singers who really could act. Look at the lackluster acting of Kathryn Grayson or Jane Powell sometime. Doris Day runs circles around them. If you're still in doubt after seeing this film, watch "Julie" sometime. Another one of her best films.

    Also, Day is in fine voice in this film. All of the songs are wonderful. "Ten Cents A Dance" and "Shaking The Blues Away" among the best. I have heard the real Ruth Etting's rendition of both these numbers, and they are nothing like Day's performances. Obviously, they weren't going for mimicry here, but it works fine just the same. Highly recommended.
  • BumpyRide4 October 2004
    If you're not a fan of Doris Day, give this movie a viewing. No syrup or sugar in this film. It's amazing just how good she is, and I wonder why she let herself be typecast as the eternal virgin? Here's an actress that seems to be able to do almost anything and do it well, ie: sing, dance and act too.

    Another great performance comes from Cameron Mitchell who I really didn't know too much about. He does a great job playing Doris' torch carrying pianist. In fact everyone does a great job in this film. The film hints about a possible drinking problem, but fails to deliver on that point. One scene in particular must have been quite shocking for 1950's audience with a possible rape in a hotel room.

    "Love Me Or Leave Me" has hints of "A Star Is Born" in its fabric but it seems to fail in telling the entire Ruth Etting story. Good on all counts, but it could have been much more powerful with this cast.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As a performer, Doris Day had it all from the start. Beautiful, sexy, and gifted with one of the loveliest voices ever to grace the silver screen, she also had an enormous gift for light comedy that made her a superstar at Warner Bros in a series of lighter-than-air musicals as good as anything MGM and the Freed unit ever produced. And later on, her talent for comedy would make her a legend in three unforgettable, hilarious films co-starring her pal Rock Hudson; the first of these, PILLOW TALK, would garner Day her only Oscar nomination.

    Now a talent for comedy is not to be despised; in fact, any actor will tell you that in many ways comedy is harder to do than drama. But it seemed to come so easily to Day that when she made the 1955 biopic of 1920's singer Ruth Etting, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, some of her fans were shocked. For while LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME has plenty of music in it, sung only as Day could sing, it was a far cry from the lightweight stuff people associated with her.

    LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is a slightly fictionalized biography of Ruth Etting, who was quite a big singing star in the 1920s and who actually made a couple of film appearances in the early sound era. And it marked a huge departure for Day, playing a broad on the make with questionable morals who gets mixed up with Chicago gangster Martin "The Gimp" Snyder, played with his customary intensity by the legendary James Cagney.

    Day does not pull any punches in this film. Etting is no innocent girl from the country. She is an ambitious singer who wants to go places and is not too scrupulous about allowing Snyder to help her career along. That he does so because he is smitten with her she is fully aware of but she tries to pretend she doesn't notice. But Snyder, though a thug, is not a fool, and he is most definitely not accustomed to being denied what he wants. So when Ruth finally gets her big break in the Ziegfeld Follies, and Marty is barred from backstage, he throws a huge fit, breaks her contract with Ziegfeld, and rapes Ruth in a shockingly obvious scene for a 1950s film. Next thing we know, she has married him.

    Ruth is a woman who is great on the stage but cannot stop making bad choices in life. Marrying Snyder out of a sense of obligation, she does not love him and it isn't long before she is in utter misery, particularly when she goes to Hollywood and reunites with old flame Johnny Alderman (Cameron Mitchell), who she still carries a torch for but does not dare to get close to for fear of what her insanely jealous husband will do.

    This is by far the hardest-hitting film Doris Day ever made, and pitted against the immortal Cagney, she reveals a set of acting chops as sharp and as hungry as his. She matches him scene for scene and moment for moment, and their scenes together grow in intensity until the final confrontation when she demands a divorce, which devastates her husband and drives him to seek revenge.

    It would be unfair to reveal too much more. This is without a doubt my very favorite of all of Doris Day's movies, an unflinching look at a woman who isn't always sympathetic, and Day has no problems showing Etting's true nature, warts and all. And when she is working with Cagney the screen threatens to catch fire.

    Brilliant, intense, disturbing, and with gorgeous music. What a package.
  • A great great biopic of Ruth Etting and Martin, the "Gimp" Snyder. Day is in great singing form and also holds her own as an actress. Her rendition of the title song is tremendous. Was there ever a better actor than Cagney? Did he ever make a bad film? His style will live forever. When you think of the films he made- White Heat, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Man of a Thousand Faces, and Love Me or Leave Me - I mean, who can compare? Joe Pesci is in some respects a good successor- as a little tough guy. But Cagney is great in all kinds of films- not just gangster films. And he could dance.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A belter of a musical / drama with Day and Cagney in contrastingly powerhouse roles. My folks have long urged me to watch this movie to see the other side of Ms Day and here she deliver grits, not ditz, to great effect. She looks genuinely sexy in her scenes, not a word often used to describe her screen persona. Her singing too is terrific and almost all the songs are great, although a little artistic control might have seen fit to drop "Sam the Accordion Man". Cagney is, well Cagney, rampaging through the movie, slugging everyone in sight, including Day. I think the film was right to depict him with almost no redeeming features up until, I suppose, the obligatory happy ending - you feel he doesn't deserve the good turn that Day / Etting pays him when his new club opens. The only problem for me with continuity in the film is one minute Cagney's forcing himself onto Day at her moment of greatest repulsion to him and the next they're married. Did I nod off or something? By the way I've noticed that hardly any of the reviews here mention the young Cameron ("Buck Cannon") Mitchell as the triangular love interest. In contrast to Cagney's overblown characterisation, he subtly underplays his part and is clearly in sympatico with Day in their scenes together. However, he really should get his hands closer to the dummy keyboard in the song set-pieces! In fact it's a real shame that Day didn't continue in this vein of acting, as many have said, but also, for me, that Mitchell subsided into hack television work. What else? Well, the dialogue is realistic, smart and sassy, the sets sumptuous and the direction well paced. I too can't understand why Cagney and not Day (or Mitchell come to that) got the Oscar nomination. "Love me or Leave Me" is a refreshing contrast to the Rodgers / Hammerstein musicals of the times with its candid depiction of 20s and 30s America, surely one of the most fascinating and exciting times ever.
  • As a big fan of Doris Day, I was looking forward to Love Me or Leave Me. And overall, I liked it very much. I agree it is occasionally frothy, and it isn't much of a biopic due to some diluting, more to do with the censorship than with the film itself. That said, while a book is probably better in telling what really happened(a kept woman and her obsessive and sexually inadequate gangster sponsor), the truth isn't completely skimmed over and the story while frothy occasionally is still engrossing, and the script is witty and has a hint of freshness.

    Even better though are the production values, music and performances. And the direction from Charles Vidor is excellent. To further elaborate on the points made in this paragraph, the use of CinemaScope framing is exquisite and the costumes and sets are top-notch. The music is wonderful too, with the title number and Ten Cents a Dance wonderfully performed by Day. The two leads are great, Doris Day is a knockout complete with a sexy new image and a great understanding to the role she portrays with great warmth and freshness here, while James Cagney in a tough guy role, one of his better later roles is even better.

    In conclusion, maybe not for those looking for the truth, but for entertainment value and a fun film Love Me or Leave Me is just the ticket. 8/10 Bethany Cox
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As I write this, TCM has a Ruth Etting 1930's short film playing (Think of short music 1930's films as the grand daddy of music videos). (Singer Ruth Etting and her small time gangster husband/promoter Marty Snyder were real life people. This film is said to be a partly fictional view of their marriage and breakup.)

    Doris Day plays Ruth Etting well. She's a bit beat up by life (and Snyder) and in the end, she's left him for a kinder man, but she squares accounts with him (for past promo work that made her a star) and sings in his club to large crowds. Tho Cagney is accused of attempted murder, you still feel sorry for him, and glad that Day will sing to promote his new night club. It seems modern that she has risen past his abusive ways to stand on her own, to forgive him and even help him in a manner that will not seem like charity.

    As Snyder himself says of his ex-wife's performance in his club "She's fulfilling a contractual obligation...Business is business."

    But here's where Hollywood (and maybe better 1950's recording technology) does better than real life.

    Day ***outsings*** Etting!

    Day sing the title song "Love Me or Leave Me" and "Ten Cents a Dance" and it still sounds modern today. Etting's 1930's recordings in early movie sound technology are tinny and too full of vibrato for modern tastes.

    If you doubt that Doris Day could play deeper dramatic roles, this film (along with films like "The Man Who Knew Too Much") should convince you otherwise...(We already know to expect a great performance from Cagney.)
  • Warning: Spoilers
    The original theatrical trailer calls James Cagney's portrayal of Marty 'The Gimp' Snyder an 'aggressive characterization'. However it's one thing to see Cagney as a gritty mobster in films like "Public Enemy" and "White Heat" where his aggression is expressed as an enemy of society. Here he seems an even more threatening presence in a one on one situation with his protégé Ruth Etting (Doris Day), a torch singer who got her start in 1920's era Chicago. It's such an effective performance that for once, I almost began to dislike him as an actor, which probably goes a long way to explain just how amazing he actually was.

    The film also keeps you a bit off balance, as the drama and personal turmoil between Ruth and Marty is offset by a whole host of musical numbers during Etting's rise to stardom. Acting as her mentor and personal manager, Snyder gets it almost right when he states "Why just have half of Chicago when she can have all of New York", as he lands Etting a gig with the Ziegfield Follies. Leaving Chicago however is the beginning of the end for the couple, as Snyder's power and influence mean nothing outside his home territory. Rebuffed by business managers and show people, Marty's comeuppance spells disaster, ultimately leading to the movie's title song finale to a packed house. In one last recognition of the impact Marty had on her career, Ruth repays the favor by headlining his new club, allowing him at least one more turn in the spotlight.

    It's unusual to see Doris Day in the role of Ruth Etting, one associates her with lighter and more whimsical screen characters, but she's effective here nonetheless. Her song numbers reflect the progress of Etting's career and her relationship with Marty with titles like 'Ten Cents a Dance', 'Mean To Me', 'I'll Never Stop Loving You', and in the wind up, 'Love Me Or Leave Me'. It's not your typical 'feel good' story by the time it's all over, nor does it try to be. One thing is certain though, and that's the sentiment expressed to Marty Snyder just before the curtain falls - "You gotta give her credit, the girl can sing..."
  • LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME was MGM's lush and richly entertaining biography of 1920's torch singer Ruth Etting. Though not big on the facts, it is a wonderfully compelling drama with music chronicling the rise of the troubled young torch singer, who, according to this film's screenplay, had a trouble getting her career going until she met a gangster named Jimmy "The Gimp" Snyder (James Cagney), whose dangerous exterior melted in Etting's presence escalating to his Svengali-like grip on her career and her personal life. Etting tries to retain her independence until it is implied that Jimmy rapes her and Etting becomes,in Jimmy's mind, his possession. It is the relationship between the two, slightly complicated by the warm-hearted pianist (Cameron Mitchell)that makes up the crux of the story here. Cagney has rarely been more electrifying on screen and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor but Day matches him scene for scene, in what is easily the finest performance of her career,but for some reason,the Academy overlooked her. Day, who was loaned to MGM from Warners for this, is smoldering, intense, and sexier than she has even been on screen. The scene where she stands alone on a nightclub stage, in a tight, black dress, dripping in sequins and fringe,and belts out the classic "Ten Cents a Dance" is worth the price of admission alone. If you're looking for facts about Ruth Etting's life, read a book, but if you're looking for supreme entertainment, don't miss this one. A must for Day and Cagney fans.
  • During the late 1940s and early 1950s musicals acquired a distinctly noir-ish quality, and the life of singer Ruth Etting was made to order.

    Born in 1896, Etting was a hardknocks chorus girl when she caught the eye of small-time Chicago hood Martin "Moe the Gimp" Snyder, who married her in 1922 and proceeded to promote her career--occasionally, according to rumor, at gun point. By 1927 Etting was a popular singer and a major Broadway star, and when talkies arrived the couple moved to California, where Etting became a favorite for the musical shorts that were then in vogue. But the marriage was volatile, and when Snyder found Etting was having an affair with pianist Myrl Alderman, Snyder shot him. Alderman survived and Etting wasted little time in divorcing Snyder and marrying Alderman, but the scandal was so shocking that it effectively ended her career. She died, largely forgotten, 1978.

    As you might expect, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME plays fast and loose with the facts, presenting Etting as an innocent (she wasn't) and Snyder as a major crime figure (he wasn't); even so, it does seem to capture something elemental about both the era and the characters. Much of this is due to the on-screen chemistry between leads Doris Day and Jimmy Cagney, who spark and sizzle in a truly surprising way.

    It will not surprise viewers that Cagney plays Snyder extremely well; he is, after all, best recalled for his numerous crime-drama roles. But it may surprise viewers that Day had the acting chops to match him. Today she is most widely remembered as a master of light comedy, but in truth Doris Day's films of the 1940s and 1950s were more often hard drama than fly-weight amusements, including such heavy-hitters as YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN, STORM WARNING, and YOUNG AT HEART; she would continue her string of dramatic roles in such films as Alfred Hitchcock's THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH. Her performance in LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is often considered her high-water mark as a dramatic actress: she gives it everything she's got, and the sparks really fly when she and Cagney square off.

    The look of the film, which was directed by Charles Vidor and sports art direction by the legendary Cedrick Gibbons, is beautiful, and the film moves at a smart clip; its one failing is that censorship issues of the era left several scenes--including a legendary rape sequence--on the cutting room floor. The music, drawn from Etting's most famous recordings, is also memorable, and Day pulls out all the stops for her songs. The DVD is not flawless, but you'll never notice it, and it includes several bonuses, two of which show us the real Ruth Etting. Recommended.

    GFT, Amazon Reviewer
  • This is really a 2 person film, as either Jimmy or Doris is in virtually every scene of this bio of 1920's & 30's singer and film star Ruth Etting. Cagney is once again playing a gangster, the role no one did better. Marty (the Gimp) Snyder is a hood on the peripheral edge of show business, he runs a company that supplies a linen service to the various clubs in Chicago. He's not a two bit punk, but he doesn't have the credibility or notoriety of a Capone or Nitti. He is well known, feared and respected in the speakeasy's and clubs and the owners are more than willing to introduce him to the various showgirls and dancers, which is where he first encounters Ruth Etting, working in a dime a dance dive. Cagney is playing a character similar to his roles in "Public Enemy" and "White Heat." He's cocky, arrogant and possesses an ability to manipulate and coerce to get what he wants. In the case of Ruth Etting, it is initially sex, but he can also see that she has an incredible singing talent which he can exploit as her manager. She is willing to be controlled, as long as he can advance her career. Marty Snyder does get things done, but Ruth Etting has to decide if his obsessive control and eventual stalking is worth it. Doris Day is superb in this dramatic role that also calls for quite a bit of singing and dancing within the context playing Etting on stage. For those used to her in the frothy WB musicals of the 40's or early 50's or in the light romantic comedies she would do later, this is something that shows what a truly excellent and versatile actress she was. She is also smoking hot, as she shows off an excellent body in some sexy outfits that she performs the various song and dance numbers in.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Love Me Or Leave Me (1955) is perhaps Doris Day's finest hour as an all around performer. That she is in fair voice is to be expected. But to also find her an accomplished actress of the melodrama is quite astonishing, since Day is often known as the fluffy powder puff of feather weight musical tripe, or, the squeaky clean, yet strangely asexual appendage of Rock Hudson. However, in 'Love Me Or Leave Me' Day smolders sensuality, proving that her acting chops were sadly underrated during the rest of her career.

    The film is a musical bio based on the rather sorted life and times of torch singer, Ruth Etting (Day). Ruth's initial affiliation with Marty 'the gimp' Snyder (James Cagney) elevates her status from taxi dancer to nightclub performer. But Marty's a small time operator; a hood in the vein Cagney well understood and brought memorably to the screen in countless performances throughout his illustrious career. At first proud of his wife's success, Marty's admiration quickly turns to jealousy as he begins to sense a growing affection between Ruth and her piano player, Johnny Alderman (Cameron Mitchell). That the affection is platonic is a moot point, especially after Marty decides to put a couple of slugs in what he perceives to be his wife's illicit paramour.

    Apart from its tempered moral attitude toward sex, director, Charles Vidor keeps the film's narrative pretty darn close to the truth of Etting's own life. It helps, by classical Hollywood standards that in real life Ruth Etting achieved something of reconciliation with her murderous ex while dashing off into the sunset with Johnny. The score for the film is first rate. Day warbles to sultry perfection the smoky "Ten Cents A Dance" and "Love Me Or Leave Me", tears your heart out with "Never Look Back" and "I'll Never Stop Loving You" and stops the show with her radio debut, "Sam, the Accordion Man" and the film's singular, lavishly staged, production number, "Shakin' The Blues Away." Considered a departure from the 'usual' musical fair of its day, in that the emphasis here almost seems to be more concentrated on the drama rather than the music, 'Love Me Or Leave Me' is dynamic box office entertainment. It sings, slinks and sets the screen on fire with two enigmatic performances from Doris Day and James Cagney.

    Warner's DVD has been very nicely rendered. Though some grain and age related artifacts are apparent during transitional dissolves and fades (as was an inherent flaw of all early Cinemascope films), the anamorphic widescreen picture exhibits a more than pleasing quality with deep blacks, velvety navy blues and pronounced reds and oranges. Flesh tones can appear a tad pasty at times, but this is in keeping with the limitations of early Ansco Color and is NOT a flaw of DVD mastering. The audio has been remastered to 5.1 and is surprisingly aggressive during the musical sequences. Three vintage shorts, two featuring the real Ruth Etting, are the only extras we get. It would have been nice to have Ms. Day do an audio commentary, but alas, no such indulgence for the film buff.
  • Doris Day, star of many light musical comedies, proves that she can REALLY act, as well as SING in this movie.

    As Ruth Etting, songstress from the 1920's, she meets small-time Chicago hood Marty Snyder (James Cagney) who meets Ruth at a "ten cents a dance" emporium. In his efforts to bed Ruth, Marty agrees to use his influence to manage her singing career. He even hires Johnny Alderman (Cameron Mitchell) to be her coach at Ruth's request. Remarkably, Marty learns the business quickly. With Ruth's talent and Marty's arm twisting she soon becomes a star, first in Chicago, then New York, on to Zigfield, then Hollywood. Along the way she agrees to marry Cagney. The film was nominated for 6 Oscars, winning for best writing. In my opinion, Cagney and Day both deserved Oscars for acting, and the musical score is wonderful. I will always remember this film for the fantastic talent displayed by Day, who sings as I never knew she could.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Love Me or Leave Me (1955) is eerily close to being a Faustian narrative, a story about an ambitious woman who basically makes a deal with the devil and suffers greatly for it even after she has attained the fame she's desired. It is also a harrowing portrait of an abusive relationship, in this case a fictionalized Ruth Etting and her manager/husband Marty Snyder, played to perfection by Doris Day and James Cagney.

    Though Day's characterization of Etting is not entirely accurate to the real woman, it is an interesting subversion of her "good girl" image by portraying a character who plays up an innocent image for her own advantage. From the beginning, Ruth knows that Marty expects sex (and later, romantic devotion) in exchange for her singing career; she's not naive and obviously a tough dame. But she puts on a virginal, guileless image, acting as though she has no clue as to Marty's true intentions for her and keeping him at arm's length as a result, constantly using the classic "I'm too tired" excuse. This only works for so long; eventually, after a shocking implied sexual assault, it becomes clear that Marty feels he totally owns this woman and she becomes obligated to marry him, thus sliding into total misery complete with alcoholism. This element of possession is highlighted in the film's intense sense of the male gaze, with Marty and Ruth's love interest Johnny constantly observing her on stage, silently fighting for her favor.

    It's strange, though, how human the writers and Cagney have managed to make Marty. Despite being obnoxious, violent, and a rapist of all things, there is a sense that he feels inadequate as a person and is holding onto Ruth not only because of twisted affection or her money, but because he has nothing else to do with himself. He's a pathetic monster and part of you reluctantly pities him.

    Of course, everyone else has gone on about Day's singing, which is fantastic as always, and the film's costumes, which are stunning, especially that big blue dress Ruth dons at the Follies. It's main strength does come from the performances though, and they have kept this one fresh and well worth watching.
  • I enjoy this movie, this is what good entertainment is all about, Hollywood today should learn lessons from movies like this.

    Well, as all of us classic movie fans know that the 1950's was the era of movies about real-life vocalists who rose to fame but had a hard price to pay that ruined them. Lillian Roth's story "I'll Cry Tomorrow" portrayed by Susan Hayward, The Helen Morgan Story, The Country Girl, then "A Star Is Born," and countless of other fictional or non-fictional films on vocalists who pay the ultimate price for fame. We never get enough of seeing movies about fallen stars who left a place in our hearts.

    This particular movie always interested me, I saw this movie on Turner Classic Movies and fell in love with the singing of Doris Day, I didn't know there was a real Ruth Etting, I didn't know she was really portraying a real life singer, I didn't check out the real Ruth Etting until 2 years ago, I saw her for the first time in "Hips Hips Hooray" on Turner Classic Movies and was kind of shocked the real Ruth wasn't anything like how Doris Day portrayed her. Doris Day's portrayed Ruth as a sexy and sassy performer and sung with a strong, jazzy, bluesy voice, when I saw the real Ruth perform in the movies and in 2 shorts, she wasn't sexy and sassy, she was reserved, the type of performer to stand still and sing with great emotion and feeling, she wasn't the wiggling hips type like Doris Day portrayed and Ruth's voice was so light, airy, powerful without being loud and aggressive, you don't hear the blues, jazz in Ruth's voice yet she was a torch singer. I see why she was popular she was a one of a kind. She didn't have to shout and sing various notes to get a song across, she knew how to put over a number without all that fancy stuff, singers today could learn a lot about singing from Helen Morgan, Lillian Roth and Ruth Etting, they didn't have to jump around, move around, shake their butts, be overly blatantly sexual, they weren't loud and annoying to make you cover your ears, they just sung their songs, each word with feeling, they didn't do all that oooh, ahhh, ooohwoooyeah stuff. The two things that Ruth and Doris did have in common was they both sing with great feeling and emotion.

    The real Ruth Etting seems frail and too sweet, she's adorable, which makes me wonder why she hooked up with a gangster anyway but then again looks can be deceiving, I heard she wasn't the sweet, girl next door type in the first place and she wasn't so naive and a pushover like Doris Day portrayed her. Doris is very curvy and plump in this movie, she looks tough and looks like she could let the limping Cagney have it and run so he couldn't catch her yet Doris portrays Ruth as weak, so it makes me wonder what the real Ruth Etting was really like, the real Ruth looks so frail and innocent, she looks as though you could knock her over with a feather but I hear she was tougher than Doris portrayed her but I guess the movie was more interesting portrayed Ruth as naive and gullible. You know how Hollywood is, they never tell the whole truth, they either leave something out and put in what they want. Ruth Etting didn't like this movie, she said many things were false and she was going to sue but told not to by Walter Winchell. Ruth Etting was one of the top singers in her prime, the definition of a torch singer. She was quite unique and powerful yet with a little voice and a little body but you believed everything she singed, her adorable face and presence would naturally make you feel her pain, behind the pretty face that was a lot of hurt that was obvious through her singing. She was a true artist who makes you stop and listen.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    If there ever was a movie musical that cried to be taken onto the stage, it is "Love Me or Leave Me". The sultry Ruth Etting has survived the test of time thanks to vintage footage of her performing in a variety of musical shorts and feature films, but for years, all most people knew about her was what they had seen in this movie. Five years after co-starring in the light-hearted "West Point Story", Doris Day and James Cagney were reunited for this, and there is no comparison. They exude fire in their performances as a dime a dance girl (a la "Sweet Charity" circa 1927) and a racketeer hiding behind a laundry business. Cagney encounters Day while on the job, tells her he can move her into stardom after she is fired, and at first thinking he is only a masher, she finally relents and allows him to assist her. But Cagney isn't doing this for nothing; His price is high, and his emotions won't allow her to say no. After taking her from Chicago nightclubs to the Ziegfeld Follies, their violent fights result in marriage, but predictably, happiness is not forthcoming. He is jealous of her success as well as a pianist (Cameron Mitchell) who loves her from afar, and the trapped Day feels like a fly in his web. Everything explodes when they go to Hollywood to make a movie, and real-life scandal prevails.

    This movie heats up like a depression era speak easy the moment it stars. You know you are not dealing with Warner Brothers Doris Day anymore; This is MGM's Doris, and much like the same year's "I'll Cry Tomorrow" (Susan Hayward as Lillian Roth), it gives a gritty, realistic view of what life was like for a real-life entertainer during this era. Whether crooning "Ten Cents a Dance" ("Come on Big Boy!", she sings with a very subtle shoulder shrug) or dancing to "Shakin' the Blues Away", Day is far from the world of those Gordon MacRae musicals and even the feisty Calamnity Jane. She is solid as a rock here with her acting, and Cagney returns to the kind of role he was doing 20 years before, only grittier and with a nasty sneer overshadowing every crack he makes at her. This is not a man to be messed with.

    Mitchell's nice guy pianist isn't at all a one dimensional character. He stands up to Cagney, giving him all he's got without fear. Robert Keith, Tom Tully and Harry Bellaver are also memorable as the men who surround Etting and Marty "the Gimp" Snyder. Every detail of this musical is perfect from the costumes, hairstyles and set design, not to mention all the vintage songs that Day sings. With nostalgia all the rage on Broadway again, a musical of this could work very well with the right stars, director and production team behind it.
  • Out of MGM, Love Me or Leave Me is directed by Charles Vidor and stars Doris Day, James Cagney & Cameron Mitchell. Written by Daniel Fuchs and Isobel Lennart, the film is loosely based on the true story of legendary 20s torch singer Ruth Etting (Day) and her rise to fame propelled by Chicago gangster Marty "The Gimp" Snyder (Cagney). It's shot in CinemaScope/Eastmancolor and features a number of Etting standards along with a couple of new tunes written especially for the film.

    Vidor's movie was a box office success that earned six Oscar nominations, one of which was for Cagney in the Best Actor category. Most surprising on the nominations list is the absence of one for Day. Surprising since as good as Cagney is here (all snarly, bossy and maniacal gangster like), this most assuredly is Day's movie as she turns in arguably a career best performance. Etting herself wanted Jane Powell to play her in the movie, whilst Ava Gardner was courted, and courted back, for the role. But Cagney was sure that Day was right for the part, how right he turned out to be.

    That Day would be able to carry off the tunes was a given, that she could immerse herself successfully in a character calling for a strong dramatic bent, still carried a question mark. Thankfully she delivers, even if her fluffy girl next door persona remains in tact. This comes down to much of the hard edge of the story from the source being absent or skirted over (Etting's battle with alcohol, pre-marital sex & infidelity), but Day and Cagney really manage to make the real life odd coupling come alive on the screen; and thus the dark aspects loom in the air just about enough to make us aware. She shows a naive, vulnerable, yet fame hungry streak, while he shows up to be a driven bully who literally will do what it takes to protect his "possession".

    However, the blend of a musical, gangster basis and biography never fully works. In fact, even tho the songs are a joy (particularly a sultry Day warbling Ten Cents a Dance), there's too many numbers used. Many times when the film threatens to really break out into bold territory, a number is inserted and the dramatic ark hits the buffers. This also gives off a feeling of repetition as time and again Cagney goes ape about something, Doris sighs and then she sings, and on it goes. All told the film is an odd fusion of intents, as odd as the central relationship of the piece in fact. In lesser hands it could have been a misfire (credit to good performances from Mitchell & Robert Keith too), but even tho it has faults, and suffers from the absence of daring, the lead actors make it a hugely enjoyable movie regardless. 7/10
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