The Razor’s Edge (1946) – Film Review

the razor's edge film review tyrone

Director: Edmund Goulding
Cast: Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, John Payne
Certificate: PG

By Sarah Morgan

Love, desire, mental health issues… they’re all present and correct in Edmund Goulding’s classy adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel.

the razor's edge film review coverWhile the name of some directors live on, Goulding is all but forgotten, despite making some really exceptional movies, including Grand Hotel, Dark Victory and the original version of Nightmare Alley.

“Seeking a purpose”

The Razor’s Edge isn’t quite up to their standard, but it’s nevertheless impressive stuff, and although he didn’t nab an Oscar nomination for his work on the film, it was in the running for Best Picture, losing out to the superb The Best Years of Our Lives.

Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney head the cast as young lovers Larry Darrell and Isabel Bradley. She’s a beautiful but somewhat flighty socialite, while he’s just returned from active service in the First World War, and it’s clear it’s had a profound impact on him. After witnessing various atrocities, Larry wants to escape from ordinary life, to find himself, to travel, see the world and to learn more about both it and himself. He is, basically, seeking a purpose.

Isabel suggests they put off their impending marriage for a year so that he can clear his mind. So off Larry goes, journeying across the world and finally finding some kind of contentment via a guru in India. However, when he suggests to Isabel that they wed and continue an itinerant lifestyle on a meagre budget, she balks at the idea and weds a wealthy old friend instead.

While Larry finds some kind of contentment, everything and everybody Isabel touches seems to go wrong. Her husband loses his business in the 1930s Wall Street crash and has a nervous breakdown, and her old friend Sophie becomes an alcoholic after losing the love of her life and their child in a car accident. Later, when Larry decides to save Sophie from herself and marry her, a jealous Isabel – who is really the villain of the piece – drives her back to drink.

the razor's edge film review

“Breaking free”

The Razor’s Edge is a film that tackles surprisingly dark themes for its vintage – it was made shortly after the Second World War (it was Power’s first movie after leaving the armed services), a time of optimism, and yet everyone seems trapped in a spiral of misery, apart from Larry, who is very much ploughing his own furrow.

And that seems to be the main message of the story – breaking free and being independent is the way forward, rather than remaining trapped by old habits and custom.

Also of note are the appearances of Anne Baxter, who deservedly won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Sophie; Clifton Webb plays Isabel’s delightfully snobby uncle, reuniting him with Tierney following their memorable turns in classic film noir Laura, while genteel Herbert Marshall pops up as Maugham himself.

The Razor's Edge is released on Dual Format DVD & Blu-ray by Signal One Entertainment, £14.99

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