The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

The Razor’s Edge (1946) Classic Movie Review 151

The Razor's Edge (1946)

The Razor’s Edge (1946)

You sound like a very religious man who does not believe in God!




Today’s movie is The Razor’s Edge (1946). It is a great movie and is based on a novel by English writer W. Somerset Maugham. rates this movie as 7.5[1] while on it is at 83 percent on the Tomatometer[2].

Some critics thought that Tyrone Power as Larry Darrell came across too preachy. I can see why they would feel that way. Power is a great actor, but he may have been too much of a leading man to pull the bohemian role. In the remake, The Razor’s Edge (1984), Bill Murphey was perfect as the searcher but everyone, except me, hated the movie.

Anne Baxter won the Oscar for best-supporting actress for the role of Sofia. She certainly deserves the Oscar. Of all the characters in this film, she goes through the greatest transition and is amazingly believable.   

There are a large number of returning actors, so let’s jump right in.



Gene Tierney played the spoiled, scheming, child of wealth, Isabel Bradley. Gene Tierney was first covered in Episode 91 – Laura (1944).

John Payne played the honest stockbroker Gray Maturin. Payne was covered in Episode 38 – 99 River Street (1953).

Clifton Webb played the eccentric and wealthy socialite Elliott Templeton. Webb was covered in Episode 91 – Laura (1944).

Elsa Lanchester had a relatively small, but important role as Miss Keith, Personal Secretary to Princess Novemali. Lancaster was covered way back in Episode 7 – Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

Anne Baxter played the self-destructive Sophie MacDonald. Baxter was just covered in Episode 115 – The Blue Gardenia (1953).


Tyrone Power played the role of a man seeking understanding, Larry Darrell. Power was born in Ohio in 1914. His parents, both actors, moved the family to California. Following a divorce, Tyrone and his sister moved to Cincinnati with their mother. It was during this time that Tyrone became interested in acting.

While working with his father in a play in Chicago, Tyrone witnessed his father die of a heart attack. Tyrone had a hard time finding work in Hollywood, landing only a few small roles. Finally, he headed east to do stage work. In 1936, Tyrone had a screen test with 20th Century Fox and was signed to a contract. It only took about a year before the devilishly handsome actor became a star. Tyrone starred in a lot of sword and tights movies like Marie Antoinette (1938), The Mark of Zorro (1940), and The Black Swan (1942). His film noirs include Johnny Apollo (1940) and Nightmare Alley (1947). His best military movie was Crash Dive (1943) released while he was in the military. Dramas and Westerns include In Old Chicago (1937), Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938), Jesse James (1939), Brigham Young (1940), Blood and Sand (1941), The Black Rose (1950), Rawhide (1951), Pony Soldier (1952), King of the Khyber Rifles (1953), and The Mississippi Gambler (1953). He really got down to serious acting with The Razor’s Edge (1946), The Long Gray Line (1955), The Sun Also Rises (1957), and Witness for the Prosecution (1957).

While making all of these films, he managed to find time to serve in Marine Corp piloting a transport pilot during World War II. In 1958, while filming Solomon and Sheba (1959), Tyrone died of a heart attack. He was 44 years old.

The Razor's Edge (1946)

The Razor’s Edge (1946)

Herbert Marshall played the author of the story W. Somerset Maugham. Marshall trained to be an accountant but soon became interested in stagecraft. While serving in World War I Marshall lost a leg and had was taught to use a wooden leg. He used a very square stance on stage, and with only a slight limp most people did not notice. He worked on the stage for almost 20 years before making his film debut in 1927 in a silent film.

Near the age of 40, he made his first Hollywood movie, The Letter (1929) with Bette Davis. Marshall’s heydays were in the 1930s. His best-known comic role was in Trouble in Paradise (1932), and his most romantic role was in Blonde Venus (1932) with Marlene Dietrich.

In the Alfred Hitchcock directed Foreign Correspondent (1940) Marshall a peace leader secretly working for the other side. He was cold-blooded in Duel in the Sun (1946).

Later he and his rich voice became associated with sci-fi films like Riders to the Stars (1954), Gog (1954) and The Fly (1958). When Marshall died in 1966, he had over 90 acting credits in film and television.


This movie begins with W. Somerset Maugham (Herbert Marshall) narrating a dinner engagement. The Great War, World War I, is over and American believes the years ahead are going to be wonderful. The year is 1919 and Maugham is meeting with social snob Elliott Templeton (Clifton Webb) and his sister Louisa Bradley (Lucile Watson). Money does not seem to be an issue for the crowd assembled at the club. Elliott complains about Prohibition and says Maugham is a famous writer. Elliott also complains that his niece is marrying below her station. His niece is Isabel Bradley (Gene Tierney). Before they can get through the introductions, her friend, the scintillating but less wealthy, Sophie MacDonald (Anne Baxter) arrives. Sophie mentions that she is engaged to Bob MacDonald (Frank Latimore). Just then, Isabel’s second place boyfriend, the very rich, Gray Maturin (John Payne) arrives.  Sophie won’t take a drink because Bob says she is too fond of the grape. Finally, Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power), Sophie’s fiancé shows up. Maugham says Larry is the subject of the book and is very special. Isabel tells Maugham that Larry was a pilot in the war and later they find that Larry has turned down a job working for Gray’s dad. Maugham mentions that he says Larry reading in the library. At last, Bob shows up and whisks Sophie away.

Finally, Isabel gets Larry away from the crowd and quizzes him about not taking the stock market job. Larry says he wants to loaf and Isabel is upset. She tries to sell him on working for the good of America. It seems like Larry may have PTSD. He tells about a friend of his that died in the war while saving Larry. The pair decides that Larry should go away for a while and that Isabel will wait. Larry says he will travel to Paris.

The Razor's Edge (1946)

The Razor’s Edge (1946)

When Isabel gets home that night, Elliott is reading the riot act to Louisa about Isabel wanting to marry Larry. Elliott lays out his play for Larry’s sojourn. Of course, Larry works his way across on a cargo boat, hanging with the lower class. Larry moves into a small flat in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Larry buys books and lives life to the fullest.

After about a year, Larry gets a note that Isabel is coming to Paris. Elliott is shocked that Larry has shown up. He also says Larry has spurned all of his invitations.

Isabel spends a month in Paris, and she tries to pin Larry down. Finally, he takes her back to his place, complete with crying babies and lower-class folks. She turns her nose up at the place. Larry wants Isabel to marry him, and that can live off his $3,000 annual inheritance. This should be around $36,000 now. Isabel says she wants to have babies and Larry quips that they can go along on the travel. Larry goes on saying he is looking for answers. It reminds me of a Jimmy Buffet song; “He went to Paris, look for answers, to questions that bothered him so.” Isabel gives back the engagement ring, and Larry begs her to wear it on another finger so the two can remain friends.

Isabel and Louisa stay at Elliott’s house in Paris for another month. On the last night, Isabel goes out on a date with Larry. Isabel is rocking a black evening gown with two spaghetti straps. They go in for some Moulin Rouge style entertainment and another restaurant with Russian folk singers. Yul Bryner did this work when he was young.  They then head to a swinging jazz club. Larry innocently goes along while the sullen Isabel works her plan. She pulls him in at the goodbye for one last drink. They get their kissy face on with the epic music, playing in the background, but Isabel puts the “you better go” on Larry. He leaves quietly as Isabel whispers “Larry.” Elliott has been listening in and complements Isabel on her performance. Elliott says Isabel was running the baby trap, but she says she couldn’t go through with it because of how innocent Larry looked.

The next scene is back in Chicago at the wedding of Isabel and Gray. Maugham is there, and Elliott gets snotty with the poor gift Sophia and Bob gave. Sophia and Bob already have a child. Maugham asks about Larry and says he has been looking for him in Paris.

Larry is working as a miner in Lens. This mine was probably located in the Pas de Calis where the stupid Nazis thought D-Day was coming. It is also near the site of the largest European mine disaster, wherein 1906 almost 1,100 miners died. After work one rainy day, Larry goes to a café where he meets with a veteran miner, Kosti (Fritz Kortner). Kosti quizzes him about the questions and why people have been asking the same questions for thousands of years. He recommends that Larry go to India. Kosti says he went there and met a man that helped people. Kosti says he is fleeing from someone that wants to give him mercy. He says he is a defrocked priest and is really running from God.

Larry makes his way to a temple in India that looks like it may be Shangri-La. He meets with the Hindu leader (Hassan Khayyam) and is allowed to stay for a while. He tells Larry “the sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to salvation is hard” which is a verse from the Hindu Kath Upanishad[3]

Back in Chicago, Bob and Sophie are in a car crash that kills Bob and the baby. Gray has to come in and deliver the news. As expected, she doesn’t take the news well. They start hitting her up with the opiates right away. Gray and Isabel pull away from their friend right at the time she needs them most.

Back in India, Larry is ready to go on his pilgrimage to the mountains. He is told there is a shelter at the top of the mountain that he can stay in. After a long time, the Hindu leader comes to see Larry. Something has happened to Larry, and he is changed by what he has seen in nature. The leader says Larry was one with God. He sends Larry back to the world.

Larry returns to Paris and one day while Elliott is out shopping he runs into Maugham. Elliott has moved to the Riviera. Elliott tells that he is descendant from royalty. Elliott tells Maugham that Gray was wiped out in the 1929 stock market crash and he, Isabel, and the two kids are now living in his apartment in Paris. He also says Gray has a breakdown and suffers from severe headaches. Maugham takes Elliott to lunch, where unbeknownst to Elliott, they will be meeting Larry. Elliott also mentioned that his Vatican friends warned him about the coming crash in September, so he still has all his money.

When Elliot sees Larry, he quickly leaves. Maugham tells the story of Isabel and Gray. Larry talks of learning about himself in India.

Later Maugham goes to see Isabel and Gray. Isabel almost drops her face on the floor when she hears Larry is in town. A bit later Larry shows up and Isabel is still in love with him. Larry goes to see Gray, and he is really suffering from migraines. Gray says he can’t go out to dinner with Maugham. Larry uses an old coin and self-hypnosis to cure Gray.

The four head out to dinner. Isabel confesses to Maugham that she has only ever loved Larry. They head to a lower-class joint. Suddenly, a drunken Sophie comes down the stairs. The people in the bar send her to see the Americans. Everyone sees the destroyed Sophie except Larry who only sees his old friend. Coco, Sophie’s boyfriend/pimp tries to get rough with Sophie and Gray handles him well. Sophie leaves, and it is very awkward for the group. They tell Larry about Bob and the baby being killed. Isabel has nothing good to say about Sophie.

The Razor's Edge (1946)

The Razor’s Edge (1946)

Larry leaves the car and heads away. Isabel and Gray leave town for a month. Isabel calls Larry when she gets back. Larry says he has been seeing a lot of Sophie and they are going to be married. Isabel gets all pissy.

Isabel sees Maugham and complains about Larry and Sophie getting married. She asks Maugham to talk Larry out of it, but Maugham refuses. Isabel claims to be noble. She eventually tries to throw him out, and then he starts commenting on her physical appearance. It’s a little strange. Finally, Maugham says Larry is trying to save the soul of Sophie and that Isabel should be kind to Sophie.

The next day Larry brings Sophie to lunch with Isabel, Maugham, and Gray. Elliott has a little spat with Princess Novemali, an American acting as a royal in Europe. Sophie suffers through everyone drinking around her. Elliott is sick and shouldn’t be drinking. The waiter offers him Persovka or pepper vodka, which is infused with red chili pepper. He makes a big production of drinking in front of Sophie and tries to get her to take a drink. Isabel digs in also trying to break Sophie. Isabel makes an arrangement to buy Sophie a wedding dress the next day.

The next day, Isabel keeps Sophie waiting. Isabel starts grilling Sophie about not making Larry unhappy. Isabel takes a drink of Persovka. Sophie confesses how hard it was not to drink. Isabel goes to pick her kid up at the dentist and leaves Sophie with the bottle after reminding her of her dead child. Isabel comes back and has the butler remove all of the booze except the Persovka. Sophie drinks while the music from her club plays in the background.

Larry goes to Sophie’s club and looks for her. He keeps coming back, but the locals are no help. Finally, a local takes him to an opium den with an Arabian bent. Sophie is asleep on a couch by a man wearing a Fez. Larry tries to take her home, but she refuses. The Fez guy burns Larry with a cigar, and Larry rips out his gold earring. They beat the crap out of Larry and throw him outside. Sophie runs out ahead of the tossing.

About a year has passed since Sophie fell off the wagon. Maugham is at the Rivera working on a book. The French police call in Maugham to tell him the Sophie had been murdered by having her throat cut. A little later Larry is brought in. The police take the two men to the place where Sophie lived. Not as bad as some I have had. Maugham tells Larry that Elliott is has fallen ill again. They head to Elliott’s home.

Larry flatters the dying Elliott. Elliott mentions that he has not been invited to Princess Novemali’s party. Elliott says he helped her get to where she is, and there is no payback.

The Razor's Edge (1946)

The Razor’s Edge (1946)

Larry is getting ready to leave when Gray and Isabel arrive. Larry goes to Princess Novemali’s house. He climbs in a window and is surprised by the secretary Miss Keith (Elsa Lanchester). She and Larry are old friends, and she tells him that the Princess crossed Elliott off the invite list herself. Larry charms her into letting him take an invitation for Elliott.

Back at Elliott’s house, the priest gives the last rites. Gray, Isabel, and Maugham go in to visit Elliott. The butler comes in with a letter for Elliott. It is the invitation to the party that Larry stole. It makes Elliott very happy as he writes out a letter declining the invitation because of an appointment with his lord. He calls her an old witch and then dies.  

Isabel finds out that Larry is leaving for Paris and she almost blows a gasket. Maugham says Larry is going back to America. Now that Isabel is rich, she says she will be seeing a lot of Larry in America. Isabel makes her play for Larry. Larry says he may buy a taxi and Isabel tries to get him to join the company Gray is planning on opening with the money Isabel inherited from Elliott.

Larry talks about the man that gave up his life for him during the war and his second chance. He also says Gray has a second chance, but Isabel is only concerned with herself and what she has given up for Larry. Larry then asks Isabel how she got Sophie down and how she got her drinking again. At last Isabel admits what she did. Larry drops the bomb on Isabel that Sophie has been murdered. Larry says he knows who murdered Sophie and stares into Isabel’s eyes. Larry leaves Isabel staring after him.

The Razor's Edge (1946)

The Razor’s Edge (1946)

When Maugham comes in Isabel admits that she has lost Larry forever. Maugham says Larry makes everyone better for being around because of his goodness. Larry is shown working on a boat as he returns to America.


Someone saved Larry’s life, and he could never pay them back. He went around doing good for people like when he tried to save Sophie. His greatest act of good was getting the party invitation for Elliott. Elliott never liked Larry and yet Larry did something to help him. It was a small task, but it brought great joy. Also, Larry could never expect anything back from Elliott.

World-Famous Short Summary – Veteran goes on extended va-ca.

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Beware the moors


The Razor’s Edge (1946)

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