“I’ve had enough! It’s up to here for me. From now on, I’m number one!”
Given the limitations of their characters as dictated by the screenplay, however, Day and Cagney work wonders with their roles, and share a number of hard-hitting scenes together. Cagney turns in an especially powerful performance as a “gimpy” gangster accustomed to getting his way at every turn, while Day effectively taps into Etting’s emotional core as she struggles to stay loyal to the man she knows she owes her career to despite feeling more and more disgusted by him. Meanwhile, Cameron Mitchell is nicely cast (against type) as Etting’s enduring love interest, waiting patiently behind the wings. Most importantly, however, Day fans will enjoy her fine renditions of a number of Etting’s most noteworthy songs — including “I’ll Never Stop Loving You”, “Shaking the Blues Away”, and the title song. While it’s not must-see viewing for all-purpose film fanatics, Love Me or Leave Me is essential viewing for any fans of Doris Day.
P.S. Check out TCM’s trivia page for the film, which includes a number of interesting tidbits — including the fact that Cagney accepted second billing for the first time since achieving stardom in the 1930s, given his acknowledgment that “Day’s character was more central to the film’s plot”.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: