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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Love Me or Leave Me (Blu-ray)
Love Me or Leave Me (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // Unrated // September 13, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted September 26, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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Love Me Or Leave Me Blu-ray Review

Love Me or Leave Me is a semi-biographical musical drama about the rise of successful singer Ruth Etting, who went from being a unknown performer, to a successful dancer, to a movie star. Nominated for 6 Academy Awards (including Best Actor - James Cagney), Love Me Or Leave Me won the Academy Award for Best Writing: Motion Picture Story. The film is produced by Joe Pasternak (Anchors Away, Please Don't Eat the Daisies). It is directed by Charles Vidor (Gilda).

Ruth Etting (Doris Day) was a talented musician who wasn't well known at the start of her career. Ruth met and later married Martin Snyder (James Cagney), a gangster known as Moe "The Gimp" and who oversaw her career as her manager. Love Me or Leave Me is a musical drama focused upon their tumultuous relationship and the problems that arose between their marriage over the course of Etting's increasingly prosperous career.

The film is known as a departure for lead actress Doris Day. Day, who was a beloved Hollywood favorite, was known for sunny and lighthearted roles in musical entertainment. She was not the type of actress associated with dramatic roles. The film was a departure for her because of the dark undertones of the story. (Though, the musical aspects are often just as fun as anything else Day did during her career).

Martin Snyder is an unlikeable, despicable, and deplorable character. James Cagney does a commendable job of taking the character down a dark path. There really isn't anything sunny about Snyder, who is obsessive over Ruth (both in his personal relationship to her and in his managing of her career), and his cold-hearted demeanor towards everything he touches. He's someone self-absorbed who only cares about what his names means in the business.

The film is peppered with a number of classic tunes from yesteryear:  musical favorites that were beloved by Hollywood. The performances are undeniably one of the most well-done aspects of the film. Doris Day is excellent here and she impresses with her great singing and dancing.

The production design was impressive too. The quality of the sets and stages used for the dance numbers was generally solid. The work by the production team was commendable and helped serve the musical-aspect of the filmmaking.

The costumes were designed by Helen Rose (High Society, The Last Time I Saw Paris). Day, especially, is given a vast array of costumes to wear throughout the production. There are many different outfits for the various performances in the film. These are certainly nice costumes by Rose and they fit the style of the production nicely.  

The cinematography is by Arthur E. Arling (Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back). This is one of the best aspects of the film's technical aesthetic. This is a beautiful looking film: there's a nice array of colors throughout. The film looks quite impressive stylistically and much of this is because of Arling's cinematography.

The story for the film was created by Daniel Fuchs. The screenplay was written by Daniel Fuchs (Panic in the Streets) and Isobel Lennart (Funny Girl). The pair did an impressive job together. Love Me or Leave Me is certainly noteworthy for its departure from the Hollywood norm. It's darker and grittier than many musicals of the era. It's unique.

Unfortunately, Love Me or Leave Me isn't as much fun as other musicals from the era, either. The film might stand out as something unique in this era of musicals (and it's certainly a well-made effort on most levels). Yet the film's focus on such an unlikeable lead in Cagney's Martin Snyder isn't exciting: it's downright dour.

The direction by Charles Vidor (Gilda, Cover Girl) is nothing to be excited over either. Vidor makes Love Me or Leave Me a film focused on the frustrated drama between the leads: it's less about showy dance-numbers than the melodrama between Day and Cagney. While some might feel the film is a more impressive drama for it... ultimately, it just makes Love Me or Leave Me seem like a less entertaining musical. It's a drama with song and dance (and not the other way around).

The Blu-ray:


Video:

Love Me or Leave Me is presented on Blu-ray with an impressive 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded presentation in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.55:1 widescreen. This is a remarkably impressive presentation. The colors impress, the film appears naturally filmic, and the cinematography shines. The presentation also boasts a great 35 mbps encode.

Audio:

Love Me or Leave Me is presented in lossless 24 bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 surround sound. The audio is excellent throughout. This is a quality soundstage for the musical. The dialogue is always clean, clear, and easy to understand. The music sounds terrific and has good fidelity for the era.

Subtitles are presented in English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing).


Extras:

A Modern Cinderella (HD, 17 min.) and Roseland  (HD, 12 min.) are musical short films starring  Ruth Etting. The films have not been restored for these presentations but are still notably in HD.

A Salute to the Theaters  (HD, 17 min.), is a theater-reel of upcoming film productions by MGM Studios. It's an especially interesting extra. It's vastly different than today's modern theatrical trailers and it showcases the different ways in which film's were promoted during the time period.

Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Final Thoughts:

Love Me or Leave Me is certainly a unique musical of the era: though there are plenty of songs, it's less focused on the music and it's more focused on the dramatics between Doris Day and James Cagney. While the film boasts impressive performances (especially by Day), quality production aesthetics, and impressive musical numbers, Love Me Or Leave Me somehow manages to be less entertaining than one might expect.

It's worth seeing for the musical numbers but it's not an especially "fun" musical. It's a dark drama about a troubled relationship. While it's hard to deny the excellent craftsmanship on display, Love Me or Leave Me left me feeling cold.   

Rent It.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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