The Razor’s Edge

Maybe it’s not possible to make a good movie from a mediocre book, particularly one as rooted in its time (1940s America, and Europe as they imagined it back then) as Somerset Maugham’s Razor’s Edge. 20th Century Fox put more than a million dollars into the picture, and it had a stellar cast. But the story is so melodramatic, it’s impossible to take it seriously, and it just drags on and on.

Tyrone Power plays the intense, war-scarred searcher, Larry Darrell.  He can’t seem to settle down with the lovely Isabel Bradley (Gene Tierney), even when his rival for Isabel’s affections, the millionaire Gray Maturin, offers him a high-paying job.  Instead he heads off to Paris to find himself, living in a run-down hotel and doing menial jobs while consorting with authentic French people.

Power and Tierney are wonderful to look at, and then you have the delightful Clifton Webb as Isabel’s uncle Elliot, a variant on the character he played opposite Tierney in “Laura,” along with Anne Baxter as a nice midwestern girl gone bad — really bad (our last view of her is as a concubine to a dissolute sheik in an opium den) and John Payne (of “Miracle on 34th Street”) as the millionaire. There’s even a cameo appearance by Elsa Lanchester, who plays the Scottish secretary to some social-climbing American “princess.”

No, it’s not the cast.  It’s the story.  The cheesy sequence with the Indian holy man, who sends Larry to the top of the Himalayas to find enlightenment, was so bad it was almost good. Almost.