The Razor’s Edge (1946)

Why am I here and what am I supposed to do?

These are big questions asked in the film.

I felt like watching a nice old movie that would make me laugh yesterday. It looked like a serious movie, so I didn’t mind not laughing at every scene. I also like Gene Tierney and Clifton Webb’s diva mannerisms and I watched it.

This had been on my movie shelf for almost a year. I started watching it last year, but I would always pause it and do something else.

Yesterday I disciplined myself to sit through a movie without curiously googling questions on my phone.

It looked a bit corny in the beginning, I will admit that. I thought it was going to be a corny romance flick from the 40’s. I did have the thought to change it to a Cary Grant movie and not continue to watch this for possibly another year.

But, I gave it a chance! It was adapted from a book written W. Somerset Maugham. I still not have finished his novel I have been reading for almost six months 🙂 I liked his storytelling!

Then it started to feel odd, but in a good way. Good old Herbert Marshall was playing a humble Somerset Maugham. At first he encounters a diva Clifton Webb, playing Uncle Elliott, who is obsessed with status and riches and reputation. He is unhappy that his niece Isabel (played by Gene Tierney) is engaged to Larry (played by Tyrone Power) because he is not wealthy and is not willing to find a job.

Larry is dealing with an existential crisis.  The movie starts in the period after WWI has ended. Near the end of the war, he saw a man give up his life for him and this experience traumatized him. He asks himself questions every human asks in his or her lifetime. What is the point of working, to just make money? Is it all there is? Will it bring happiness or satisfaction? He also wonders what is the point of success…He wants to know if he will be satisfied basically.

Larry wants to find himself. Larry is a thinker. His fiancée thinks this is an excuse for him to not work and wants him to just follow the usual path most people take: to make money and survive.

So, Larry spends a year in Paris “loafing”. When Isabel visits him, he tells her that he still hasn’t figured out what he wants and that he wants to marry at once. Aware that he still does not plan to work and that they will be broke, Isabel gives him his ring back and leaves.

He then goes to India and then there is quite an interesting conversation he shares with a prophet about the purpose of existence. “This movie is quite odd!” I start to think.

He finds himself in the mountains somehow. India was good to him.

However, Isabel followed the advice of Uncle Elliott and chose to marry the rich man that was in love with her because status and riches were more important.

They also have two good friends, Sophie and Bob, who are newly married and have a baby. At least it looks that way in the wedding of Isabel and Grey.

Then years pass and the 1929 Crash happens. Isabel and her husband and kids are broke and move to Paris. Somerset Maugham sees Larry again and tells him to go see Isabel. But things have not been so good to everybody.

Sophie, played by Anne Baxter, lost both her baby and her husband in a car crash. Her reaction in the hospital is heartbreaking. I almost cried.

She is later found in Paris drunk in a pub sort of place. She is an alcoholic. Larry sees her and feels sorry for her. Isabel doesn’t and says she should have recovered like a normal person. We can see by now that Isabel turned cold and materialistic like her uncle.

She then discovers that Sophie stopped drinking because she is engaged to Larry, who Isabel still loves.

She invites her to a dinner party and shows off her bottle of Pertsovka and Sophie tries to fight her urge. I think this is how Isabel starts showing her true heartless manners. When she invites her to her home, she leaves her alone with the bottle of Pertsovka and one assumes what happens.

I’ll stop giving more spoilers, but I can just add that this movie made me think. I assume the general message behind it is that people go on living full lives obsessing over materialistic things such as social status or their tastes than finding out what their purpose in life is really. No matter how rich someone is or how famous, they still die alone and probably wished they could have done more in life other than attend parties and buy the latest Prada bag.

Isabel married a man she didn’t love, but was still rich. Sophie was not as wealthy, but she married a man she loved. She appreciated what she had and then lost it. The goodness never left her, however. Isabel turned cruel.

Gene Tierney is absolutely fabulous in this movie. Many people wanted her to date Tyrone Power, as he had a crush on her and she was about to divorce Oleg Cassini, but she was already in love with Jack Kennedy. Her performance as a ruthless, selfish woman was so convincing that she made me mad at some parts!

She also wore beautiful clothes in this film, designed by Oleg Cassini.

Anne Baxter was also phenomenal. I felt sympathy for her character. It must be terrible to lose your spouse and child. She probably turned to alcoholism to numb everything out, as she did not care about anything anymore.

Tyrone Power was a handsome man and was nice to watch. Clifton Webb never disappoints! He is a diva in every film. Quite a snob! The part where he sobbed at the end left me speechless. He probably wished he was nicer to people.

This film is quite depressing and it did not feel like a noir really, nor a 1940’s one. It felt like a 1960’s film. It is depressing and quintessential. It explores themes every human spends many hours thinking about: “Why am I here?” “What I meant to do?” “What’s the point?”

I think, for the most part, the point is to just live your life and be good. We are all going through the same process. Don’t make it worse for others 🙂

“What do I like?” “What should I do?” “What are my beliefs?”

One doesn’t need to go to the mountains in India to figure it out. It all takes time.

Even though this was a long film, it left me quiet at the end. I certainly liked it.

One should watch it if they like those movies with messages about human purpose. Also, W. Somerset Maugham was a really good writer!


3 thoughts on “The Razor’s Edge (1946)

  1. Great review! Great writing! You are a very wise person. The philosophical questions you focused on remind me of the title of Paul Gauguin’s most famous painting. It’s called “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?”. Long title, I know 🙂

    Anyway…I hope you are doing great! You’re always fondly in my thoughts!!



      1. Yeah, Gauguin moved to the South Pacific…to Tahiti, I think (or maybe Marquesas Islands). My geography is not that good for that region. But he’s one of my favorite painters. He is famous for leaving France and moving to this exotic place. So those are some of the island natives in the painting 🙂 –Paul

        Liked by 1 person

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