Love Me or Leave Me was not a groundbreaking film. Most films are not, nor are they required to be. What this film did end up doing though was end up being good. Really good. The studio took two genres of film – a powerful drama and a musical – and combined them into a motion picture that could captivate an audience.
The film starred Doris Day who was just coming into the height of her popularity, having starred in numerous musicals previously and who would go on to star in many more dramas and musicals to critical and popular acclaim. Starring opposite her would be one of the silver screen’s most well-known leading men, James Cagney, who would appear in four films alone that very year. Together they created cinema gold.
The film takes place in Chicago and Cagney is a small-time gangster named Martin Snyder. He likes what he likes and he does what he likes, that is until he meets Ruth Etting played by Doris Day. She does not have any real interest in him, but when he starts to do favours for her, he expects something back. But Marty, being the way he is, is not used to women who stand up for themselves and soon finds out that maybe his way is not always the right way.
The conundrum of this film lies in the way it was cast and the way it turned out. Doris Day, who was known for playing young, pretty and singing starlets ended up in that very role for the film. Cagney, who had played a gangster in a plethora of films beforehand including White Heat and Public Enemy, was again convinced to take essentially that very same position. What differentiated them both in this film was the way they were to play off of each other’s characters in a very damaging relationship. The stronger of the two was Cagney though, as you could see literally every emotion stamped across his face bold enough for all to see – rage, love, hate, happiness and heartbreak. They might have been typecast but their acting was anything but.
This film could have been just a run of the mill movie, but with a great script by Daniel Fuchs and Isobel Lennart, and a great cast, the aforementioned Cagney and Day, it turned into a really great picture. If you have a chance to watch it, take it.
5 out of 5