The Razor’s Edge (1946)
“Hunger no love . . . woman . . . or wealth could satisfy!”
Director: Edmund Goulding
Cast: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne
Synopsis: An adventuresome young man goes off to find himself and loses his socialite fiancÃ©e in the process. But when he returns 10 years later, she will stop at nothing to get him back, even though she is already married.
Young Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) returns from WWI, having only survived that conflict thanks to the self-sacrifice of a comrade, and understandably has a few questions about life and purpose, etc. Now, in real life all people who talk of wanting to find themselves, or learn about themselves, or get in touch with themselves, immediately consign themselves to my ‘to be avoided at all costs’ list. As far as I’m concerned they’re quite welcome to go find themselves as long as they don’t bore me with the details. So, when Tyrone started coming out with lines of a similar nature and I saw that there was still a couple of hours to go, things weren’t looking too hopeful.
Thankfully, our hero finds himself quite quickly. It turns out he was up a mountain in India. So, duly complete in all senses of the word, he returns to Paris to renew his acquaintance with Somerset Maugham and find himself embroiled in all manner of soapy situations.
He was engaged to be married to the wealthy socialite Isabel Bradley (Gene Tierney) before he went all New Age on her, but she’s still keen now that he’s back in circulation, even though she’s now married with two daughters. That doesn’t stop her setting her sights on Larry.
The Razor’s Edge is one of those titles that hints at profound depth and insight, but this movie is really just a typical Hollywood melodrama. It’s polished, to be sure, and the lengthy running time flies by, but melodrama is all it is. Twentieth Century-Fox wheeled out a heavyweight cast for what was obviously a prestige production intended to re-introduce Power to audiences following his WWII service. Best amongst them is Clifton Webb, who is irresistible as Isabel’s snobbish, materialistic and fussy uncle (’it bobbles,’ he complains to a harassed shop assistant of the cord on his dressing gown, ’when it should sway!’); Tierney comes a close second with her portrayal of the materialistic Isabel, who becomes increasingly petulant with the passing years. Her character isn’t an out and out bitch – there are subtle shades to her character that are unusual for a studio movie from this period – but she’s so blinded by self-absorption to what she’s become (which, in a way, darkly mirrors Larry’s own earlier preoccupation with finding himself) that she gives little consideration to the consequences of her actions until it’s too late. Anne Baxter also gets her teeth into a meaty role as Larry’s self-destructive fiance who is haunted by the loss of her husband and baby in a car accident. The other supporting roles are fleshed out by Somerset Maugham (Herbert Marshall), who floats in and out as a passive observer who provides some infrequent narration, and the perennially under-used John Payne as Isabel’s decent but slightly weak husband.
The film’s an odd one for a 1940s studio picture, but it’s not without merit despite a somewhat episodic structure.
(Reviewed 8th March 2012)