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A writer meets a young socialite on board a train. The two fall in love and are married soon after, but her obsessive love for him threatens to be the undoing of both them and everyone else around them.
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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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 razor's edge" has outstanding merits and, unfortunately, remarkable defects. Balancing the ones and the others, it stands as a sound, beautiful instance of classic movie.
The story, based on Somerset Maugham's novel, is certainly original, although some twists of the plot are hardly believable, others are naive and predictable. The spiritual quest by Larry (Tyrone Power) is an interesting theme. However, his yearning for living among workers and poor people is far-fetched, and fails to be touching. The director's job is just adequate. The cardboard backdrops are awful! The scenes placed in the fake Himalaya are laughable. The representation of French people is inaccurate and too picturesque. By the way, French people NEVER spoke a foreign language in those years (in truth, not much has changed nowadays).
Fortunately enough, the merits of the movie overwhelm the flaws. The script is brilliant. A thorough psychological study of the characters is made, through lines at times dramatic, at times permeated with typical English sharp wit. A great acting is a major strength of the film. The whole cast, minor roles included, makes an excellent job. Anne Baxter deserved to win the Oscar for the best supporting actress. Gene Tierney is fantastic: her Isabel, fully believable and realistic, is the most interesting character of the movie.
Gene's acting is willingly understated, but extremely subtle and accurate. Look at the glances she flashes to the drunk Sophie (Anne Baxter) at the tavern. Look at Isabel's expression when Sophie vulgarly sits down on the table, turning her back to Isabel and flirting with Larry. We feel that a mortal hate is soaring. The clash between Isabel and Sophie is a great scene. Baxter beautifully shows Sophie's tragic weakness, But Gene's icy attitude is even more effective. After all, let's take Isabel's point of view: we realize that she's perfectly right. It's true that Sophie is a hopeless drunkard. It's true that Larry wants to marry her just as an act of pity. And Isabel fights for her love. Why shouldn't she?
Yes, Isabel is selfish, spoiled, even ruthless... and so? For all his generosity, sense of duty and so on, Larry neglected Isabel just to avoid such an enormous self-sacrifice as to take a job! And then Isabel shouts "Love me, Larry, love me!" Come on, Larry! How on the earth can you resist to such an appeal? Why aren't we audience allowed to replace you, undeservedly over-lucky fellow? Alas! Larry is "completely out of mind", as Isabel puts it. By the way, Larry's incoherences, in a world of people ever following their own way (snobbery for Elliott, comfortable wealthy life for Isabel, poised literature for Maugham, debauchery for Sophie), by no means are a flaw of the movie. They rather make a fine artistic effect, even improving the realism of the story.
And how I like the scene when Herbert Marshall as Maugham makes a detailed description of Isabel's perfect beauty, loveliness, grace (Gene-Isabel staring at him with a half-dreaming, half-mocking smile). That's a much appreciated gift for all us devoted fans of Gene Tierney.
Yes, I don't hide the defects of "The razor's edge". But it is certainly entertaining, interesting, even profound at several moments. A beautiful film.
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