The Razor's Edge
The Razor's Edge is a 1946 American film (based on a novel by Somerset Maugham) , starring Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Anne Baxter, John Payne, and Herbert Marshall
The Razor's Edge has all the outer trappings of a traditional 1940's social drama. Wealthy protagonists, trans-Atlantic locations, sophisticated, cynical dialogue, and elaborate set design. But The Razor's Edge is anything but a traditional Hollywood drama at heart, for it is about spirituality and personal enlightenment in a world of trouble , turmoil, war, and financial ruin.
The Razor's Edge is available for viewing, for free on You Tube
It is also available on various streaming services , some free, some subscription.
A group of friends begin their post WW 1 lives. They are basically socialites wanting to maximize their material and social gains during the 1920's. They are good people, but immersed in materialism. With one exception - Larry Darrell, a pilot during the war, he has returned to civilian life looking for a deeper meaning to existence. His fiancé is Isabella (Gene Tierney), the niece to a wealthy social dilettante (Clifton Webb) named Elliot Templeton. Elliot sits in constant judgement of his social inferiors, although at bottom he has a kind heart. Other main characters are a couple named Sophie and Bob, who are friends of Larry and Isabella, and Gray Maturin, who is a wannabe romantic rival of Larry's for Isabella's affection.
An impatient Isabella asks Larry ,at a party, how he will make his fortune now that the war is over. She knows that Gray's father has offered him a job working in high finance. Larry tells her that he is searching for a deeper meaning and doesnt want to work a regular job. Although Isabella loves Larry, she thinks he is crazy to pass up a high paying career, and they decide together that they cannot be married. Larry goes to Europe seeking the deeper meaning of life, and eventually ends up in India being taught eastern spiritual principles by a hindu wise man.
This is the point in the story where the purpose of the film's message unfolds. Larry Darrell has learned to be in the world but not of it. He can express both deep compassion and uninvolvement. He doesnt need or desire material objects. He can enjoy a fine dinner at a posh restaurant, but doesnt exult in it or think luxury means anything important (in contrast to the snobby Elliot) . As the other main characters all have drastic ups and downs in their lives (deaths, bankruptcies, jealousies, illnesses) Larry stands as the calm center of this universe, watching them , helping them, neither judgemental or apathetic. He does acts of kindness for the others almost without them even noticing.
Eventually , over a ten year period or so, all the characters lives but Larry's have gone through somewhat traumatic transformation. Sort of the old saying "life happens".
In the end Isabella wants him back but it is way too late, they have changed in opposite directions.
I found the most interesting aspect of The Razor's Edge to be the totally conventional narrative of the story that is wrapped around the spiritual search of the main character in a way that is unique in American movies. The dialogue, as you might expect from a film made from a novel in that period, is sophisticated and descriptive of the characters and their desires.