Razor’s Edge, The (1946)

Razor’s Edge, The (1946)

“I don’t think I’ll ever find peace until I make up my mind about things.”

A writer (Herbert Marshall) recounts his experiences meeting a traumatized WWI pilot (Tyrone Power) returning home unready to settle down and marry his social-climbing girlfriend (Gene Tierney), who is patient for a while but eventually marries a wealthy man (John Payne) and has children. Years later, Power — now experiencing inner peace and a devotion to making the world better — takes pity on a family friend (Anne Baxter) who has become an alcoholic after the tragic loss of her husband and baby, and agrees to marry her — but Tierney, assisted by her wily uncle (Clifton Webb), won’t allow anyone else to have the man she still loves.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anne Baxter Films
  • Character Studies
  • Clifton Webb Films
  • Edmund Goulding Films
  • Elsa Lanchester Films
  • Gene Tierney Films
  • Herbert Marshall Films
  • John Payne Films
  • Tyrone Power Films
  • Veterans

Released just two years after the publication of W. Somerset Maugham’s novel of the same name, this cinematic adaptation was likely of greater interest to current audiences than it will be to modern film fanatics. While Power’s quest for deeper meaning in a world seemingly obsessed with class and materialism continues to resonate:

… the package it’s presented in doesn’t satisfy. Tierney’s character is particularly poorly written: she comes across as slightly shallow but relatively sympathetic during the opening scenes:

… then suddenly becomes an obsessively jealous psychopath after choosing to marry Payne (a nice guy).

Perhaps there’s more insight about her in the novel, but this extreme shift doesn’t play well, and her treatment of Baxter is simply egregious (one is instantly reminded of her role the year before in Leave Her to Heaven, which apparently she was channeling here).

Also less-than-convincing is the obvious use of studio sets when Power visits India. This film remains mildly noteworthy for presaging the influence eastern spirituality would have on American youth in the 1950s and ’60s, but otherwise hasn’t held up particularly well.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • An at-times intriguing look at man’s spiritual search for meaning

Must See?
No; feel free to skip this one. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.


One thought on “Razor’s Edge, The (1946)

  1. Agreed – not must-see.

    I believe I’ve read 3 Maugham novels so far: this one, ‘Of Human Bondage’ (among my favorite novels) and ‘Christmas Holiday’.

    It’s going back about a decade now, but I saw the (admittedly good-looking) film version of ‘The Razor’s Edge’ soon after reading the novel (which I recall liking a great deal) – and the film (even with its impressive cast – some of them doing well – and a solid director) does not ultimately satisfy. I wouldn’t be able to give specifics without going back and reading the book and then rewatching the movie (LOL) but I do recall that as my overall feeling.

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