Saturday, April 19, 2008

This week, I watched a kind of unusual musical: Love Me or Leave Me (1955). It wasn't unusual in form or content, or in who it starred; it was a biopic of 20s jazz singer Ruth Etting and her gangster husband Marty Snyder, and it had lots of songs and dance numbers, all of the entertainer-doing-a-show-for-an-audience variety. It starred Doris Day and James Cagney.

Wait a minute -- Doris Day was a singer, James Cagney played gangsters a lot -- what's so unusual?

How about the fact that Doris Day played a pretty unsympathetic character? That strike you as unusual? She was manipulative, she was greedy for fame, she pouted and threw tantrums. Not the Nice Girl Next Door that she usually played.

As for James Cagney, while he played a crook and a jerk and a self-serving jackal, he actually ended up getting more of my sympathy than Doris Day. Because for all his faults, Marty Snyder really did fall for Ruth Etting, and she used him to get famous and then divorced him. There were a couple scenes where Cagney nearly had me misty-eyed.

Of course, it's a fictionalized account of their lives, so who knows what they were really like. But that's how they struck me in the movie.

6 comments:

  1. I found both characters rather unsympathetic. Ruth was okay with doing whatever it took to get to the top, while Marty became dangerously obsessed with her. It's even implied he sexually assaults her when she claims there's no way she can adequately "pay him back." Still, they were fascinating figures and even Marty seems to be more pathetic than anything. Good movie.

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    1. It's been seven years since I saw this, so I don't remember it all that well anymore, but I think I found them both pretty awful, but him more sympathetic than her. Definitely a more thought-provoking movie than many musicals!

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  2. Dear Hamlette,

    I completely agree with what you say in your article. This film is acclaimed as a wonderful depiction of Ruth Etting's life, but it is not played the right way. At the end, because of the script and James Cagney's marvelous acting, you feel terrible for Marty, and Ruth seems very unfeeling and almost cruel. All through the film she was unkind to Marty, but he always tried to control himself by just breaking things rather than hitting her. Although he finally lost control of his temper near the end and slapped her, he is altogether to nice, and she is altogether to calloused, throughout the movie. I don't think this is an accurate depiction of either the characters, and for our blogathoon, Tiffany and I wrote about an accurate depiction which could have been made in 1939. You can read this article at: https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/10/13/the-great-breening-blogathon-mean-to-me-ruth-ettings-story-in-1939-by-tiffany-and-rebekah-brannan/.

    I, Rebekah Brannan, have not participated much in the blog world in the past, but I intend to become more involved now.

    I would like very much for you to participate in my upcoming blogathon, The Singing Sweethearts Blogathon, which will be my first real participation in PEPS. This blogathon, which will be hosted around Valentine's Day, is celebrating the famous singing team Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

    You can read the rules of the blogathon at: https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2017/12/20/ring-the-assembly-bell-here-comes-the-singing-sweethearts-blogathon/. If you want to join, please comment and tell me your topic, if you have chosen one. I hope you'll join me in honoring this brilliant team and the holiday of love!

    Joyfully,

    Rebekah Brannan

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    1. Yes, Rebekah, it's a strange movie, for sure. One I might rewatch some day just to see if it really is as odd as I recall... but at the same time, I didn't like it much, so not sure I'll ever bother.

      Thanks for the invite! I will definitely think about your blogathon and see if I come up with something for it.

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  3. Dear Hamlette,

    I'm sorry I didn't respond sooner, but I just saw your comment. This is the only article I've ever read which does not sing this film's praises. It's nice to see that somebody agrees with me about it.

    I hope you'll be able to participate in my blogathon, since I would love to have your talents in it. I look forward to your decision.

    Thank you for your time!

    Joyfully,

    Rebekah Brannan

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    1. To be honest, Rebekah, you're one of the first people I've encountered who have seen this movie at all. Interesting!

      I'm going to have to decline participating in your blogathon, I'm afraid, because I'm going to be hosting an event here myself that same time, and it will run all week, so I'll be busy with that. But feel free to invite me to another blogathon when you host one! Timing might work out better :-)

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