Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Tyrone Power at the height of his good looks
THE RAZOR'S EDGE (1946). Director: Edmund Goulding.

Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) is engaged to wealthy Isabel Bradley (Gene Tierney), who wants Larry to get a good job and make money. But Larry is seeking something other than mere materialism in his life, so instead of marrying Isabel he goes off to find himself in India. Observing, commenting and interacting with the others is Somerset Maugham himself (Herbert Marshall), who wrote the novel upon which the film is based. Other major characters include Isabel's uncle, Elliot Templeton (Clifton Webb) -- of Larry he says, "my feeling is he's living in the Latin Quarter with some 'bint' who's no better than she ought to be" -- and Sophie MacDonald (Anne Baxter), whose life becomes embroiled in tragedy upon tragedy. As a fairly obvious Christ figure (although in some ways Larry comes off more like an unambitious schmo), Power is adequate, but his insufficiency shows up in such scenes as when he reacts [or doesn't] to sad news about Sophie; he's hardly ever looked more handsome, however. The best performances come from a poignant Anne Baxter and from an especially superb Webb, who etches a fascinating portrait in his personification of the snobbish but likable Templeton, but Tierney and Marshall are also effective, along with Lucile Watson [Templeton's sister] and Elsa Lanchester in smaller roles. John  Payne has a fairly good part and is fine, although out-classed by the rest of the cast. At one point Maugham remarks that Templeton is "sitting pretty" -- Webb would appear in the famous film of that title two years later -- to which Templeton replies: "that is an American colloquialism, which you British seem to use, but which describes my state accurately." In addition to its over-length, The Razor's Edge has underdeveloped supporting characters whose fates never have the impact they're supposed to, and the movie never seems to get anywhere. Still, Webb and Baxter make it worth watching.

Verdict: Entertaining, in spite of itself. ***.

No comments: