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The Critics' Corner: THE RAZOR'S EDGE

Awards and Honors:

The Razor's Edge was nominated for Best Picture for the year 1946 but lost out to the excellent post-war drama, The Best Years of Our Lives. It also received nominations for Best Art Direction, Best Supporting Actor (Clifton Webb) and Best Supporting Actress (Anne Baxter), for which Miss Baxter won. Webb was expected to win but a real-life war vet and amputee took home a Special Achievement Oscar® as well as the competitive award for Supporting Actor. Both Mr. and Mrs. Darryl Zanuck sent telegrams to Webb expressing their belief that Webb deserved to win.

Both Clifton Webb and Anne Baxter took home The Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress for their superb performances.

The Critics' Corner on THE RAZOR'S EDGE

"There is an impressive scuttling of screen cliché in The Razor's Edge. The adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel which has opened with considerable fanfare at the Roxy, has far more integrity than the tub-thumping might suggest. Edmund Goulding has staged the work as a restrained and frequently fascinating study in character, which is all that the book offered...The virtues of The Razor's Edge are solid. Its faults stem directly from a long-winded literary original." He further added, "If the players are still at the threshold of a significant drama at the final curtain, it is because Maugham never made their encounters more than fugitively compelling." He concludes, "What matters most is that The Razor's Edge has had the audacity to philosophize. Here is a movie which goes behind the obvious boy-meet-girl formula to assay the fundamental appetites of mankind." - Howard Barnes, New York Herald Tribune, November 1946.

"It has everything for virtually every type of film fan... It's a moving picture that moves...The casting is superb. Power is thoroughly believable as the youth who finally learns aloft a rugged Himalayan peak what he's always sought; that 'the path to salvation is as hard to travel as the sharp edge of a razor' but having found 'God's beauty....fresh and vivid to the day of our death' he is prime to return to his homeland...For all its pseudo-ritualistic aura the film is fundamentally a solid love story. Miss Tierney is the almost irresistibly appealing [female lead] and completely depicts all the beauty and charm endowed her by Maugham's characterization. Miss Baxter walks off with perhaps the films' personal bit as the dipso, rivaled only by Webb's effete characterization... This is a personal Darryl F. Zanuck production and he has given it the gun in every detail. Not the least of it is Alfred Newman's fine score and excellent lensing... Sumptuously mounted and capably administered by director Goulding, the film lives up to one of the industry's best pre-sold products." - Variety, November 1946

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wasn't as pleased as The Herald and Variety. He wrote, "In an earnest, expensive endeavor to put upon the screen the tenuous drama and morality of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge, Twentieth Century-Fox has concocted a long and elaborate film in which the grasp for some shining revelation of spiritual quality exceeds its reach. It has aimed for a lofty exhibition of goodness within the soul of man and has shown little more than surface piety in this new film which opened at the Roxy last night," and, just as Howard Barnes did, he laid most of the blame at W. Somerset Maughams's feet, "And that is because the story which Mr. Maugham wrote-and which has been followed with essential fidelity by Lamar Trotti in the screen play-is a vague and uncertain encroachment upon a mystical moral realm, more emotional that intellectual, more talked about than pursued... the details of demonstration, while as worldly and showy as the book's, lack the clear and incisive quality that would make them seem visible of truths. They are richly, exquisitely theatrical in the very best style of Hollywood, but they carry no cachet of humanity, no insight into abstract ecstasies." Still, he found much to praise as well, writing, "Clifton Webb is crisply amusing and almost destructive in spots as a titanic snob and social tyrant... For all its shortcomings however, there is no doubt that The Razor's Edge will appeal to a great many people who are sentimentally inclined to its vague philosophy. And the unctuousness of its expression will take care of a lot of vagrant hopes. Also-and this is important-it returns Mr. Power to the screen in a role of a modern evangelist. Goodness is back and Mr. Power has got it." - Bosley Crowther, The New York Times, November 1946

"Clifton Webb does a memorable high-camp number as an expatriate snob." - Pauline Kael, 5001 Nights at the Movies

"Slick adaptation of Maugham's philosophical novel...Elsa Lanchester sparkling in bit as social secretary...Long but engrossing." - Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide

"With thousands of extras and generous French dialogue, rare for Hollywood, the scenes of 'Lost Generation' Paris boast beaucoup de vérité. (Alas, Zanuck cut corners on Himalayan scenes, with low-cost horizons.) Power stretches himself as a man in turmoil who forsakes wealth and joins the proletariat, while Tierney plays a variation on Scarlett O'Hara as the scheming ex-fiancée who wants him back. Long but seldom flat, the film is terrifically acted, especially by Clifton Webb as a prissy snob who notes, 'I do not like the propinquity of the hoi polloi.'" - Entertainment Weekly

Compiled by Greg Ferrara

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