Taglines: The story of one man’s search for himself.
Larry Darrell returns from the battlefields of World War I to America a different person. His fiance (Isabel) resigns herself to a delay in the wedding plans when Larry heads off to Paris. There he finds he prefers a simpler existence and begins to read. One book inspires him to visit India and on to Nepal where he finds spiritual help from a lama. On returning to Paris he finds Isabel and some old friends. Everyone has changed.
The Razor’s Edge is an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham’s 1944 novel The Razor’s Edge. It stars Bill Murray (who also co-writes), Theresa Russell, Catherine Hicks, Denholm Elliott, Brian Doyle-Murray and James Keach. It was directed and co-written by John Byrum. This marked Murray’s first starring role in a dramatic film, though Murray did inject some of his dry wit into the script. The book’s epigraph is dramatized as advice from the Katha Upanishad: “The path to salvation is narrow and as difficult to walk as a razor’s edge.”
About the Story
In Illinois, in 1917, just before America joins World War I, a fair has been planned to raise money to support Gray Maturin and Larry Darrell, who are joining World War I as ambulance drivers. Larry looks forward to returning home to marry his longtime sweetheart Isabel. Larry shares a final night with Isabel watching the fireworks along with Gray, their close friend Sophie, and her husband Bob.
At the front, commanding officer Piedmont schools his new men on the harsh reality of war. For example, he has both of them armed, because in spite of it being an ambulance unit and America’s neutrality, the enemy can and will kill those helping the Allies. He also destroys the headlights and windows of a fellow ambulance truck because the lights will signal enemies to their unit. Larry adapts quickly, shooting the headlights and windows of his own truck.
Larry witnesses the deaths of soldiers and fellow ambulance drivers, and is in constant danger. By the time America is deeply in the war, Larry’s unit is down to a few men. During an unexpected encounter with German soldiers, Piedmont is fatally stabbed trying to block a German soldier from shooting a wounded Larry. The war ends not long after, and when he and Gray return to America, Larry suffers survivor’s guilt and realizes that his life has changed. His plans to join Gray in working for Gray’s father as a stockbroker will not make him happy, so he puts off his engagement to Isabel and travels to Paris in an effort to find meaning in his life. Isabel’s uncle, Elliott Templeton, assures her that some time in Paris will help clear Larry’s mind and take away any jitters he has about marriage.
Instead of following Elliott’s suggestions of staying at first-class hotels and wining and dining with the aristocracy, Larry lives a simple life, reading philosophy books in a cheap hotel. He finds work, first as a fish packer, then as a coal miner. After saving the life of a coworker by pushing him out of the way of an out-of-control mine car, he has a conversation about books with the elder miner. The miner discusses a Russian magician’s book, lends a copy of the Upanishads, and suggests that Larry travel to India to gain a different perspective.
The Razor’s Edge (1984)
Directed by: John Byrum
Starring: Bill Murray, Theresa Russell, Denholm Elliott, Catherine Hicks, James Keach, Peter Vaughan, Stephen Davies, Faith Brook
Screenplay by: John Byrum, Bill Murray
Production Design by: Philip Harrison
Cinematography by: Peter Hannan
Film Editing by: Peter Boyle
Costume Design by: Shirley Russell
Set Decoration by: Stuart Rose, Ian Whittaker
Art Direction by: Malcolm Middleton
Music by: Jack Nitzsche
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures
Release Date: October 19, 1984