Yesterday I was at home all day and unusually neither my missus Gail nor our kids found me jobs round the house or for the grandchildren. So I sat down in my favourite armchair to see what the film channels had on offer. I was not disappointed as Film on Four scheduled Love me or Leave Me, The Cruel Sea and Das Boot – satisfying my thirst for 1950 musicals and naval war films in one go.
The fifties were the golden age of MGM musicals. Under Arthur Freed they produced An American in Paris, Brigadoon, Singing In the Rain and Gigi. Love me or Leave Me is perhaps less known but equally enduring.
It’s the biopic of singer Ruth Ettling, played brilliantly by Doris Day, who starts as a taxi girl, a dancer in a night club for punters, but has the talent and crucially ambition to better her singing career. Here she is helped by hood Jimmy Cagney as Marty Snyder who is captivated by her. Jimmy Cagney plays the role as the psychotic mobster as in White Heat. Cagney was actually a fine dancer but for some reason he has a limp all film and does not take to the dancing floor. Doris Day can showcase both her acting and singing faculties. The film has some great numbers, not least the song of the title. The chemistry between the two leads drives the film but it also has the production values of the score and acting that made MGM musicals of that era such classics.
Despite doing nothing other than watch the film, fatigue got the better of me before Das Boot. I would have liked to do a comparison with The Cruel Sea. Certainly in the latter Jack Hawkins gave one of his best performances as convoy skipper but also ‘ number one’ Donald Sinden was equally competent . It was a film that did not romanticise a crucial theatre of Second World War operations and although Moira Lister and Virginia McKenna with their cut glass accents were dated, one that endured as well as the musical .