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DORIS DAY TRIBUTE W/ JAMES CAGNEY IN 'LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME'

James Cagney and Doris Day YEAR: 1955
LEAVE ME OR LEAVE ME is both a showcase for Doris Day's voice and proof she could really act, and going up against James Cagney she plays singer Ruth Etting as a tough, stubborn, assertive dance hall girl who Cagney's jealous gangster Eddie Snyder falls for upon first sight in a scene where, as she fends off a grabby creep, she's shot from a cannon right away...

As a biopic, it never feels like the complete truth, and when the tempestuous working relationship peaks at the halfway point, the next morning they're married without an explanation, and strangely enough, it's after what bordered on rape the night before. The real life relationship between the singer and gangster was probably more amicable albeit feisty, and they do show her as a climber who uses Snyder in what are the best scenes, going from the dance hall to a dancing gig to a jingle singer to the nightclub's lead to the radio, and then the Ziegfeld Follies and beyond.

James Cagney and Cameron Mitchell RATING: ****
Meanwhile the last half continues with more montage-style tunes where the drama feels too randomly injected, as if they were intruding upon the music as opposed to how things began.

Winding up with nice guy pianist Cameron Mitchell (who is usually more natural in the creepy gangster role), the most third-act fun is how perturbed our stocky antagonist gets while being sympathetic and pathetic at the same time. Something only a great actor can pull off, and this is one of Cagney's best 1950's performances. But it's Doris Days' film, and shows she really had an edge, on and especially off the stage.
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