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Olivia de Havilland,
Well-to-do Chicagoan, Larry Darrell, breaks off his engagement to Isabel and travels the world seeking enlightenment, eventually finding his guru India. Isabel marries Gray, and following the crash of 1929, is invited to live in Paris with her rich, social climbing, Uncle Elliot. During a sojurn there, Larry, having attained his goal, is reunited with Isabel. While slumming one night Larry, Isabel and company are shocked to discover Sophie, a friend from Chicago. Having lost her husband and child in a tragic accident, Sophie is living the low-life with the help of drugs and an abusive brute. Larry tries to rehabilitate her, but his efforts are sabotaged by Isabel who tries in vain to reignite Larry's interest in herself. Written by
Richard Blinkal <email@example.com>
Like Larry Darrell, the character he played, Tyrone Power also served as a pilot during the war. Power served in World War II as a Marine airman, rising from the rank of private to first lieutenant. See more »
Tyrone's sideburns don't match and keep changing at the beginning of the film. See more »
When the screenplay credits are shown, a curious symbol appears near W. Somerset Maugham's name. It's a symbol meant to ward off the evil eye, and it more often than not appeared on the covers of many of Maugham's novels. See more »
The author of numerous novels, plays, and short stories, W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965) was considered among the world's great authors during his lifetime, and although his reputation has faded over the years his work continues to command critical respect and a large reading public. Published in 1944, THE RAZOR'S EDGE is the tale of a World War I veteran whose search for spiritual enlightenment flies in the face of shallow western values. It was Maugham's last major novel--and it was immensely popular. Given that the novel's conflicts are internalized spiritual and philosophical issues, it was also an extremely odd choice for a film version--but Darryl F. Zannuck of 20th Century Fox fell in love with the book and snapped up the screen rights shortly after publication.
According to film lore, THE RAZOR'S EDGE was to be directed by the legendary George Cukor from a screenplay by Maugham himself--and it does seem that Maugham wrote an adaptation. When the film went into production, however, Cukor was replaced by Edmund Goulding, a director less known for artistic touch than a workman-like manner, and the Maugham script was replaced with one by Lamar Trotti, the author of such memorable screenplays as THE OXBOW INCIDENT. Tyrone Power, recently returned from military service during World War II, was cast as the spiritually conflicted Larry Darrell; Gene Tierney, one of the great beauties of her era, was cast as socialite Isabell Bradley. The supporting cast was particularly notable, including Herbert Marshall, Anne Baxter, Clifton Webb, Lucille Watson, and Elsa Lanchester. Both budget and shooting schedule were lavish, and when the film debuted in 1946 it was greatly admired by public and critics alike.
But time has a way of putting things into perspective. Seen today, THE RAZOR'S EDGE is indeed a beautifully produced film--but that aside the absolute best one can say for it is that it achieves a fairly consistent mediocrity. As in most cases, the major problem is the script. Although it is reasonably close to Maugham's novel in terms of plot, it is noticeably off the mark in terms of character and it completely fails to capture the fundamental issues that drive the story. We are told that Larry is in search of enlightenment; we are told that he receives it; we are told he acts on it--but in spite of the occasional and largely superficial comment we are never really told anything about the spiritual, artistic, philosophical, and intellectual processes behind any of it. We are most particularly never told anything significant about the nature of the enlightenment itself. It has the effect of cutting off the story at its knees.
We are left with the shell of Maugham's plot, which centers on the relationship between Larry and Isabell, a woman Larry loves but leaves due to the growing ideological riff that opens up between them. Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney were more noted for physical beauty than talent, but both could turn in good performances when they received solid directorial and script support. Unfortunately, that does not happen here; they are extremely one-note and Power is greatly miscast to boot. Fortunately, the supporting cast is quite good, with Herbert Marshall, Clifton Webb, and Lucille Watson particularly so; the then-famous performance by Anne Baxter, however, has not worn as well as one would hope.
With a running time of just under two and a half hours, the film also feels unnecessarily long. There is seemingly endless cocktail party-type banter, and indeed the entire India sequence (which reads as faintly hilarious) would have been better cut entirely--an odd situation, for this is the very sequence intended as the crux of the entire film. Regardless of the specific scene, it all just seems to go on and on to no actual point.
As for the DVD itself, the film has not been remastered, but the print is extremely good, and while the bonus package isn't particularly memorable neither is noticeably poor. When all is said and done, I give THE RAZOR'S EDGE four stars for production values and everyone's willingness to take on the material--but frankly, this a film best left Power and Tierney fans, who will enjoy it for the sake of the stars, and those whose ideas about spiritual enlightenment are as vague as the film itself.
GFT, Amazon Reviewer
11 of 17 people found this review helpful.
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