The Archivist #133: Ghosts of Oscars Past- Part 2 [LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME & REVERSAL OF FORTUNE]

Part two of our look back at some past Oscar winners from Warner Archive.

The Archivist — Welcome to the Archive. As home video formats have evolved over the years, a multitude of films have found themselves in danger of being forgotten forever due to their niche appeal. Thankfully, Warner Bros. established the Archive Collection, a Manufacture-On-Demand DVD operation devoted to thousands of idiosyncratic and ephemeral works of cinema. The Archive has expanded to include a streaming service, revivals of out-of-print DVDs, and factory pressed Blu-ray discs. Join us as we explore this treasure trove of cinematic discovery!

Well, the big day has arrived. After an entire year…and some change, the Oscars are finally happening tonight. Maybe it’s because this especially long awards season has been, well, ESPECIALLY LONG, but this year more than ever, I feel that all of the nominees and their films have already won. Each of the titles vying for gold tonight has enjoyed more time than usual to be discovered and analyzed by both cinephiles and general movie audiences. While some of that analysis has been questionable, to say the least, there’s no doubt that each film has enjoyed a level of visibility that’s just invaluable for any film.

As we wait for the newest members of the Oscar family to be crowned, please enjoy the second part of our tribute to past winners courtesy of our friends at Warner Archive. While we focused on literary adaptations and original screenplays last time around, here we look at a biopic (1955’s Love Me or Leave Me) and a “based on a true story” drama (1990’s Reversal of Fortune), both of which scored with the Academy and still prove compelling watches to this day.

Love Me or Leave Me

Star power drives the cinematic re-telling of acclaimed singer Ruth Etting with Doris Day starring as the famous singer and Jimmy Cagney as her volatile manager/husband, Marty Snyder. Throughout the course of two hours, we follow Ruth as she goes from a ten-cents-a-dance girl to a sought after talent and Marty’s determination be in charge of it all. Although the explosiveness of their relationship and Ruth’s success continuously threaten to tear them apart, fate repeatedly brings them back together.

Love Me or Leave Me delivers on every kind of front a splashy, colorful, musical drama should. Day serenades in the way only she could and looks great doing it. Meanwhile, the movie offers many scenes featuring the central pair tearing each other apart as a result of their complicated devotion to one another. On the surface, Marty is a brute, a hoodlum who begins to feel emasculated and relegated to the sidelines by Ruth’s growing fame which not even his gangster connections can control. Meanwhile, Ruth is shown as a woman never once afraid of the man in her life, believing that her will to succeed and her proven talent are stronger than all of Marty. Yet the most intriguing aspect about Love Me or Leave Me is how, despite repeated attempts to distance themselves from one another, both Marty and Ruth are drawn back to one another for reasons neither one can fully understand. One of the last winners of the Oscar for Best Original Motion Picture Story, Cagney managed to score a well-deserved Best Actor nom while his co-star was overlooked despite giving one of the most magnificent turns of her impressive career.

Reversal of Fortune

Based on the sensational headline-grabbing case, Reversal of Fortune recounts the scandal of wealthy Long Island heiress Sunny von Bulow (Glenn Close) who was found unconscious and brain dead in her bathroom. All signs point to foul play with her husband Claus (Jeremy Irons) immediately accused of attempted murder. In an effort to clear his name, Claus hires notable attorney Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silver) to take on his case and ensure a fair trial. But like the rest of the world, Alan has his doubts about his client’s innocence.

The universe was definitely aligned for the success of Reversal of Fortune. This is a film that quite simply works on every level, especially when it comes to the triumphant acting. Besides Irons’ career-defining performance, Close is spellbinding in every scene (it’s hard to believe her role was completed in just over a week) and Silver manages a steady intensity. Nicholas Kazan’s script is magnificent and Barbet Schroeder directs with the kind of genuine curiosity necessary for the whole affair to work. The strength and brilliance of Reversal of Fortune is that is presents the case, the players and the events with an unbiased eye, allowing the audience to make up their own minds. With such compelling character dynamics and the intoxicating mystery surrounding them, it’s all but impossible not to get pulled in. Reversal of Fortune was an awards season darling during the 1990 season, eventually scoring Oscar nods for Kazan, Schroder and of course, Irons, the night’s surest bet who took home the gold much to everyone’s delight. Thirty years after the win, Reversal of Fortune maintains its hypnotic grip on audiences who can’t help but be enthralled by the mysterious case and the figure at its center.

Love Me or Leave Me and Reversal of Fortune are both available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Warner Archive.

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