After kicking a customer for getting fresh, 1920s Chicago nightclub singer and dime-a-dance girl Ruth Etting is in jeopardy of losing her job when Martin Snyder intervenes on her behalf. Snyder, known as "The Gimp" to some because of his game leg, owns a laundry business and runs a protection racket, wielding considerable clout.
Etting and her piano accompanist Johnny Alderman are grateful, but Snyder makes it clear he expects Etting to travel to Miami with him, not for business but for pleasure. Etting declines, but Snyder's interest in her continues. Through an agent, Bernie Loomis, he arranges a radio program to feature Etting, followed by a job with the famed Ziegfeld Follies. His crude behavior and violent temper cause Etting a number of problems along the way.
Johnny is in love with Etting as well, but she marries Snyder out of gratitude. His heavy-handed management continues as her popularity grows. Goaded to get into the entertainment business, Snyder decides to open a nightclub of his own. Upset at sensing a relationship resuming between Etting and Johnny during their filming of a Hollywood movie, Snyder strikes her. He then catches them together, shoots Johnny and is arrested.
Horrified but conflicted because of all Snyder has done for her career, Etting arranges for Loomis to bail him out of jail. At his neglected nightclub, Snyder arrives to find that Etting is performing there herself. At first enraged by what he perceives as an act of charity, Snyder finally realizes this is Etting's way of showing her appreciation, even if she can't be part of his life any longer.Doris Day as Ruth Etting
James Cagney as Martin Snyder
Cameron Mitchell as Johnny Alderman
Robert Keith as Bernard V. Loomis
Tom Tully as Frobisher
Harry Bellaver as Georgie
Richard Gaines as Paul Hunter
Peter Leeds as Fred Taylor
Claude Stroud as Eddie Fulton
Audrey Young as Jingle Girl
John Harding as Greg Trent
The role of Snyder was originally intended for Spencer Tracy, who turned it down. Cagney suggested to producer Joe Pasternak that Doris Day be cast in the Etting role. The role had been sought by Ava Gardner (singing voice probably had to be dubbed by Jo Ann Greer) and Jane Russell, but Cagney persuaded MGM to cast Doris Day, who was excited to play opposite Cagney.
Love Me or Leave Me won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story, and was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (James Cagney), Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, Best Music, Song (for Nicholas Brodzsky and Sammy Cahn for "I'll Never Stop Loving You"), (one of two songs written especially for the film, the other being Never Look Back) Best Sound, Recording (Wesley C. Miller) and Best Writing, Screenplay.
Variety called the film "a rich canvas of the Roaring '20s, with gutsy and excellent performances."
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – Nominated
2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
"Ten Cents a Dance" – Nominated
2006: AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals – Nominated
According to MGM records the film earned $4,035,000 in the US and Canada and $1,597,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $595,000. Love Me or Leave Me was the eighth ranked movie in 1955.
All but two of the songs in the movie were hits that Etting had recorded originally back in the 20's and early 30's. These new songs, written specifically for the film are: "Never Look Back", by Chilton Price, and, "I'll Never Stop Loving You", by Nicholas Brodzsky and Sammy Cahn.
The songs as they appear in the film (all sung by Doris Day except as shown):Ten Cents a Dance
I'm Sitting on Top of the World (sung by Claude Stroud)
It All Depends On You
You Made Me Love You
Stay On the Right Side Sister
Everybody Loves My Baby (But My Baby Loves Nobody But Me)
Mean To Me
Sam, the Old Accordion Man
Shaking the Blues Away (sung by Doris Day, danced by Doris Day and Chorus)
I'll Never Stop Loving You
Never Look Back
Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue
My Blue Heaven
Love Me or Leave Me