“The whole world is restless and confused”
The Razor’s Edge is one of many adaptations of stories by the author W. Somerset Maugham. The story combines philosophy and enlightenment with greed, jealousy, and downfall. These elements sound like they would not mix perfectly at all but each character with these elements come together and connect.
Somerset Maugham is a character in the film (he is played by Herbert Marshall). He often comes in and narrates. In the beginning he tells the audience that this is a story about a man named Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) who will leave no trace when he dies. This line ties in at points during the film when Larry does do very good things, we almost feel ashamed for him being such a good man who will never be well known.
The film starts off at a party in the 1920s after World War I. Larry was a pilot during the War. He has come home to Chicago very disillusioned with life after seeing his friends die and seeks something more. He is engaged to a girl named Isabel Bradley (Gene Tierney). She is a society girl who only wants the best out of life. She and her mother are practically brainwashed by her social climbing uncle Elliot Templeton (Clifton Webb). Larry decides to go to Paris where many exciting things are happening. He figures he may gain some new knowledge or experience new things that will open his mind and his eyes. When Isabel and her family come to stay in her uncle’s Paris apartment Larry shows her Paris and the place where he has been living. She cannot understand how Larry could live the way the he does with barely any money and in such a small place. He asks her to come away with him and live a simple life. Isabel refuses and breaks off her engagement to Larry.
As the years go by Larry has traveled to India where he finally seeks his enlightenment. Isabel is married with two girls to a man named Gray. They have lost their money in the stock market crash and Gray has gone into a depression where he has his good days and bad. They are living in Paris in Elliot’s apartment where he pays for them to have a rich life. Isabel still loves Larry in a way. She wants him to come back into the high social class that she is used to. Money and wealth do not matter to Larry but Isabel cannot understand that.
One night when Larry, Isabel, Gray, and Maugham are out they visit a seedy sort of club. There they meet an old friend from Chicago named Sophie (Anne Baxter). She is no longer the happy in love woman married to a man she adored with a baby. Now she is a mess addicted to drugs and alcohol. Larry for a while saves her and they plan to marry. Isabel becomes jealous and tempts Sophie back to her old ways by flaunting what Sophie cannot have and has lost.
Since Larry finally has found what he has wanted in life and sees just how cruel someone he had once felt so close to he returns to Chicago most likely to see none of his old friends again.
I’m not sure how I feel about The Razor’s Edge. I did not hate it but I did not love it. I felt Anne Baxter was the only good actor in the whole film. Gene Tierney was beautiful without a doubt (and wonderfully dressed by her designer husband Oleg Cassini) but her acting to me was not the greatest it felt so fake and so forced. In one scene it was as if she was not trying to act like she was saying her lines the way someone would memorize a poem. Tyrone Power I just have trouble liking I have not watched one film with him so far where he has clicked with me and I cannot even say I kind of like him. He is not terrible here he was not a bad actor but I just cannot for the life of me get into him. Clifton Webb was pretty much a more flamboyant version of Waldo Lydecker from Laura. Baxter was really the only actor I thought gave a really great performance (she rightly won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for this role). You can see the emotions on her face you can believe her character has loved and greatly lost and is now just a complete emotional mess. What Baxter did in just the few scenes she was in blew Tierney and pretty much everyone else right out of the water.
I did really like the story and I liked the characters even Isabel who was so mean. Watching the film made me really want to read the book. For the film itself I do not wish other actors were the stars or can think of any other actors who could have done better. Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Anne Baxter, and Clifton Webb were perfect but as far as the acting Power and Tierney could have done a lot better. The acting does not deter from the story at all.
The Razor’s Edge is definitely worth seeing it is a very good example of classic Hollywood at its best. Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power were beautiful together (Power was often considered more beautiful than his female costars so it was often difficult for 20th Century to find him beautiful female leads. Gene Tierney was just as beautiful and they looked perfect together). The entire cast was very good together. At a time when Film Noir was becoming big and there were anti-heroes The Razor’s Edge adds something a bit different. It does reflect society at the time when men were coming home from war and they questioned life but Larry found enlightenment he found his something more in life that was not high society and money. He was not down on his luck for very long. The people that surrounded him were out on their luck and he wanted to help them because he saw they were not happy with their lives.
I found myself wishing I could be in Paris during the 1920s. As an Art History major I have learned about how artsy Paris was during this time and how it was THE place to be even into the 1930s (how I wish I could have been around when Man Ray and Lee Miller were together). I would have loved to have witnessed the city then and to mingle with all the great artists and literary figures, maybe I would have ran into W. Somerset Maugham.