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Love Me or Leave Me
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Reviews & Ratings for
Love Me or Leave Me More at IMDbPro »

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Two of movies' greatest combine genres. The progeny is superb...

Author: markdaniel-576-859721 from United Kingdom
21 November 2012

Interesting and revealing how many of the reviews here are written by Cagney fans who do not generally like Day and vice versa, so hidebound are we by styles and maybe gender. They would never have made this movie in this genre-obsessed age where actors and films must remain consistent and predictable. Here, Cagney, one of the greatest of all cinema actors, whose cocky, little man bravura is usually found in gangster vehicles (where his vulnerability beneath the sociopathic veneer always comes as a delightful surprise), combines with Day, whose sensuality and strength of feeling, though betrayed by her voice, were to be smothered in syrup in those bubblegum romcoms. Both are magnificent performers. Day plays it low-key. She keeps the passion for the singing, which is superb. Cagney's boyish swagger and confusion are heartbreaking. This is a nigh unique melodrama which defies genres and could only have worked in so wholehearted and apt a melding and transcendence of stereotypes.

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A Fantastic Surprise

Author: kjeroh-1 from United States
5 November 2011

As someone who knew Doris Day primarily through her early 60s romantic comedies, I watched Love Me or Leave Me mainly because I couldn't see pairing her with James Cagney. Right from the start, it is a gripping film. The writing is excellent and performances incredible. I was also thrown by the classification as a musical. Make no mistake: this is not lighthearted fluff, but a potent drama with Doris Day revealing why she was a recording star.

Her portrayal of Ruth Etting is done superbly, as a small town woman, but with big city wiles. She is happy to use the James Cagney character (Marty Snyder) to propel her career as long as she can keep him at arm's distance. When he finally pushes back, she loses control of her life.

I found the entire film fascinating, from acting, singing and just how one attained fame during those days as a singer. (Selling records was only a small fraction. Besides the clubs it was the compositions of the songs: piano, horns, strings -- all very nicely done.)

Love Me or Leave Me is one of the great surprises I've enjoyed watching the presentations from Turner Classic Movies. Powerful, taut and supremely enjoyable with a bit of a surprise ending, it is well worth watching -- and is far from being a "Chick Flick."

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Frothy somewhat, but well worth seeing for Day and Cagney

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
3 October 2010

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

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Dirty Linen

Author: writers_reign from London, England
21 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In 1955, at almost the chronological mid-point of her film career (1948-1968) Doris Day made what are arguably the two finest films in which she ever appeared, Young At Heart and Love Me Or Leave Me. Both are best classified as Musical Drama and in both she played opposite a character whose screen name was Barney. If co-star Frank Sinatra got to sing the cream of the score in Young At Heart - Just One Of Those Things, Someone To Watch Over Me, One For My Baby, whilst she was stuck with the crowd-pleasing cotton candy confection - Ready, Willing And Able, Hold Me In Your Arms - with which she was identified, in Love Me or Leave Me she got to perform virtually the whole score, which, though not boasting anything like the quality of the Sinatra numbers in YAH was not exactly chopped liver. In both films she was obliged to abandon the role of professional virgin with which she was also identified in favor of semi-pro actress and in both films she managed reasonably well. LOLM is based partly on fact: Singer Ruth Etting did marry Martyn Snyder in 1922 and remained married until 1937; the following year she married Myrl Alderman, remaining married to him until his death in 1966. Whether events were as dramatic as portrayed here is speculative. Suffice it to say that though Cagney walks away with the picture as you would expect Day is only three or four steps behind while Robert Keith (who had played her father in YAH) scores well in the thankless nice-guy role as an agent. Good to watch, good to listen to, what more can I say.

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A rousing portrait of the Roaring 20's

Author: happyendingrocks from United States
19 July 2009

James Cagney is always a delight to watch, even when he's playing a pompous and disgusting pig like Marty Snyder. If you don't agree with that statement, you may have a hard time taking in Love Me Or Leave Me, because Cagney's character is about as unlikeable as leading men come. I know next to nothing about Snyder's non-fiction life, but if we are to believe his composite in this film, the dude must have been completely lacking redeeming qualities of any kind.

Of course, Cagney himself is well known as one of the nicest, most decent human beings who ever worked in Hollywood, so the fact that he so effectively channels Snyder's loathsome persona certainly demonstrates the actor's tremendous skills. If you've seen any of Cagney films, you're probably used to those, but his ability to own every scene he's in despite the fact that the audience is destined to abhor his character shows very clearly how fully Cagney leaped into every performance he undertook.

Doris Day is not one of my favorite actresses of the classic era, but she is excellent here. Perhaps I just hadn't seen her at her best until now, but after witnessing her show-stopping Zigfield Follies number here, I'm a believer. It's hard to sell her as a sympathetic character, especially watching her maintain her timid vigil under Snyder's dominating and abusive umbrella, but the film explores their volatile relationship in such depth, some semblance of understanding creeps through. This is not your traditional love story however, and in fact that emotion seems to have very little to do with the pairing on the screen in Love Me Or Leave Me. The film instead essays a very peculiar mutual dependency, and it's a fascinating relationship to digest in the hands of these two gifted actors, both of whom make every scene they share sizzle as they play off of each other.

A substantial number of musical performances pad the running time, and it could be argued that some could have been omitted for the sake of streamlining the story. But the songs serve as external monologues in which Day fills in the emotional gaps in her character's psyche, and paying close attention to the words reveals a lot about the unspoken undercurrent of alternating disgust and devotion that seems to have classified this co-dependent arrangement. Luckily, all of the music is excellent, and Day's performances are all top notch. Whether we're seeing her headline elaborate stage numbers or simply rehearsing by the piano, her plain but effective vocal delivery always seethes with emotion.

Though the film is definitely dated, it has aged quite well. Today's audiences will likely note the casual misogyny that runs rampant throughout the film, which was so prevalent in early Hollywood and was somehow accepted as part of popular culture. Those not familiar with this phenomenon may be a bit shocked by what they see here, but if we put it in context with the times and consider what a woman's role was traditionally considered in the era, it's not off-putting to see Day endure these verbal and emotional attacks without retaliation. It certainly doesn't dilute the strength of her performance, or the character for that matter, and knowing that it wasn't considered socially proper for a woman to talk back to her fella in those days adds yet another layer of complexity to the fabric of this union. We know there will come a point where Day finally can't take anymore, and watching her soak up each new trespass while being forced to bottle her emotions allows us to truly be engulfed by the inner turmoil of this woman whose dreams are coming true, even as her life away from the stage is a nightmare.

This is an engrossing character study on both sides, and Day and Cagney are both in top form here. If that alone isn't enough to persuade you to watch this film, I'm at a loss to provide a better selling point.

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Day's Long Journey Into Night

Author: laika-lives from United Kingdom
20 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Some films, for all the critical praise they receive, simply pass underneath the popular radar. 'Love Me Or Leave Me', Charles Vidor's masterpiece, is one of those films. It is the greatest musical Doris Day was ever involved with, yet it doesn't seem to command the same devotion as 'Calamity Jane', an entertaining but unsatisfying comic romp, or even the lumpen 'Moonlight' movies. That's a great pity, because this film contains one of the two extraordinary dramatic performances Day delivered in the mid-fifties (the other was in 'The Man Who Knew Too Much'). In her earlier musicals, Day was an energising presence, but slightly overstated and eager as a comedienne. She was still the best thing on screen, but she lacked subtlety as an actress. Here, she's in a whole new league. Just look at the scene in which James Cagney tells her that she's going to be a Hollywood star. Her apathy is something unimaginable in Day previously, a weary cynicism expertly underplayed. Having seen this film, I don't think it's hyperbole to talk about her as being the equal of Judy Garland as an actress, if maybe not quite as a singer (although her expressive, surprisingly sensual voice makes all her other peers look suitably weak - particularly as most of them were being dubbed anyway).

She holds her own against a Cagney at full tilt, which is no mean feat (no other actor is so able to blow other stars off the screen, with the possible exception of Al Pacino). He plays Martin Snyder as a dynamic combination of ego and insecurity, all macho bluster and hair-trigger temper. He's a monster, yet one who becomes increasingly sympathetic as the nature of his failings becomes apparent. He's a man looking for self-respect, but he can't find any - he's ridden to success on the talents of Day's Ruth Etting - so he tries to demand it from everybody else. The film doesn't soft-peddle his repellent egotism - his behaviour at the Ziegfield theatre is both intimidating and pathetic - and for the most part the audience takes Etting's side. There's a great moment shortly after the characters arrive in LA and he's been throwing his weight around, when she punctures him mid-boast. 'Just who do you think you are?' she demands, pointing out how little he's achieved compared to those he tries to intimidate. He deflates, and it's so satisfying the audience wants to cheer. Yet the movie is too complex merely to point the finger - Etting does owe much of her success to him, for all his mistreatment (and, at times, mismanagement) of her, something she realises even as the audience urges her to leave him in her wake. There's another wonderful scene, towards the end, when Robert Keith's Loomis checks Snyder's fury and tells him to, essentially, get over his own fragile ego. Etting knows she owes him - now he has to be big enough to let her pay it back. Just for a moment, it seems as though he really will change, but the film is too canny for any sort of pat resolution. He remains an egotistical heel to the end.

The cinematography for this film is sublime, dark and rich in a way that's reminiscent of Vincente Minnelli. The film, however, is altogether less fatuous then that director's most famous works ('Meet Me In St. Louis' is visually beautiful but sentimental and patronising). A better comparison is George Cukor's 'A Star is Born', released the previous year, which matches the velvety style with dramatic teeth. The musical numbers are as good as those in any other musical of the period - particularly 'Chasin' the Blues Away' at the Ziegfield, and the final performance of 'Love Me or Leave Me'.

This isn't just Vidor's last great film, it's probably his greatest film (and yes, I do remember 'Gilda' - but even that film doesn't have such a satisfying dramatic shape). The open ending is a device that too few films of the period used, but the tension between resolution (Etting is paying off her debt to Snyder in preparation for a future without him) and unresolved questions (Will he go to prison? Will his club be a success?) is oddly satisfying - all biographical pictures should be as open about their inability to provide neat closure to a life. The final shot of Day, singing 'Love Me or Leave Me' as the camera draws back, is one of the Hollywood's (few) great endings.

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Doris' best role

Author: tday-1 ( from Tucson, Az
5 January 2006

This film is the story of 20's singer Ruth Etting and her marriage to Marty Snyder. When Doris sings the old standards,it's great but MGM tacked on two numbers that sounded OK but they threw the ambiance off. It plays with the facts as usual,Ruth Etting was well into her thirties before she went Hollywood. In real life Ruth Etting was a quiet,refined woman stuck in a bad marriage. Despite what the film says,Ruth had many friends who just accepted Marty as her husband. Ruth was no ambitious tramp conniving people out of work so she could take their place but I guess it made a better story. The song Ten Cents a Dance was actually written for a stage show.

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Love it

Author: ryancm from United States
28 May 2005

LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is not your typical musical. That is, no one breaks out in song and dance. The numbers are used in the context of the story either in rehearsal or performance. This is a musical drama. Don't know how accurate the story is of Ruth Ettings rise to fame with the help of her manager/gangster/husband, but for it's day, made in the 50's, it's quite blunt. Doris Day and James Cagney have seldom been better, and they make a terrific combo. Also appealing is the underrated Cameron Mitchell, so good in HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE. Here he gives a laid back, easy going performance which is great contrast to the Marty Snyder character played by Cagney. Like in A STAR IS BORN, there really isn't anyone else of any importance in the movie. Just three or four main characters. To fully enjoy this movie, hope one has a wide screen TV for the full CinemaScope range. Stero system would also help. The musical numbers are brilliantly staged, both the big production number and Miss Days quieter moments. Correction in other peoples comments. Susan Hayward did not win her Oscar for I'LL CRY TOMORROW released the same year as LOVE ME. She won a few years later for I WANT TO LIVE...also, someone said her voice was dubbed for I'LL CRY..not so. She did her own singing as Lillian Roth...Miss Hayward WAS dubbed by Jane Froman, however, in WITH A SONG IN MY HEART...


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Great work by Doris Day and James Cagney

Author: NewEnglandPat from Virginia
9 May 2005

Doris Day and James Cagney are excellent in this lush Technicolor story that details the career of singer Ruth Etting. Day's bright, cheerful, optimistic, happy persona gradually gives way to depression and alcoholism brought on by the demands of a small-time hood who gains control of the singer's professional and personal life. Day's one desire is to sing and to make it big in show business, and her mentor opens doors for her but at the same time exacts a terrible price from the singer. Cagney is great as the controlling and abusive hoodlum and paints him with most unflattering strokes, yet generates a bit of sympathy because he is so pathetic as he clings to Day in desperation. Cameron Mitchell has a nice turn as Day's accompanist and love interest, playing him with warmth and sincerity. Robert Keith is also good as an agent who has first-hand knowledge of Day's unhappy personal life.

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Nice crime-musical

Author: vertigofan-3 ( from Sintra, Portugal
17 November 2002


This one is a curious mov made when James Cagney had already left his crime movs. It also stars the popular Doris Day as the singer who is sponsored by him. Cagney gets his crime movs touches to create a gangster who loves Doris Day in his way. In the end, she'll stay with Cameron Mitchell. I never liked too much Day, cause of her image too `goodie goodie' yet she proves to be a good actress here. She sings some fine songs like one of my faves-`Shakin the Blues Away'.

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