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The Man I Love (Jan. 11, 1947)

The Man I Love
The Man I Love (1947)
Directed by Raoul Walsh
Warner Bros.

Loving the popular music of the ’30s and ’40s isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying Raoul Walsh’s The Man I Love, but it sure helps.

If you don’t like old pop standards (I do, and found myself humming “The Man I Love” constantly for about a day after I watched this movie), then you’d better like “women’s pictures,” because that’s what this is. (I’ve seen The Man I Love called a film noir, but it’s not. Half the movie takes place in nightclubs, and there’s a hint of criminal malice every now and then, but that alone does not a noir make.)

The most prominent tune is the one that gives the film its title, George and Ira Gershwin’s sublime “The Man I Love” — both as a smoky nightclub number and as a constant refrain in Max Steiner’s lissome score — but there are plenty of other great songs, like Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s “Why Was I Born?” and James P. Johnson and Henry Creamer’s “If I Could Be With You.” There are also tunes just tinkled out on the piano, like George Gershwin’s “Liza (All the Clouds’ll Roll Away)” and Johnny Green’s “Body and Soul,” suffusing the film with a nostalgic languor that’s a nice counterpoint to all the melodrama.

When New York nightclub singer Petey Brown (Ida Lupino) packs her bags for Los Angeles to visit her siblings, she’ll find love, lose love, flirt with danger, and leave things a little better off than she found them. The poster for The Man I Love features the following tagline: “There should be a law against knowing the things I found out about men!” This is a bit of an overstatement, since most of what Petey finds out about men in this picture is what most clear-eyed women already know; most of them are rotten, some are crazy, some are sweet but naive and dim-witted, and the few you fall for are probably in love with another dame who they’ll never get over.

Petey’s sister Sally Otis (Andrea King) has a young son and a husband, Roy Otis (John Ridgely), who’s languishing in a ward for shell-shocked soldiers. Sally lives with the youngest Brown sister, Ginny (Martha Vickers), who’s 18 and should be enjoying life, but instead spends most of her time caring for the infant twins of their across-the-hall neighbors, Johnny and Gloria O’Connor (Don McGuire and Dolores Moran). Joe Brown (Warren Douglas) — the girls’ brother — is hip-deep in trouble. He’s working for a slimy nightclub owner named Nicky Toresca (Robert Alda) and seems destined for a one-way trip to the big house.

There are a few potentially interesting stories that never really go anywhere, such as Ginny’s attraction to Johnny, whose wife is two-timing him, and Sally’s relationship with her mentally ill husband. For better and for worse, Lupino is the star of The Man I Love, and her dangerous dealings with Nicky Toresca and her doomed romance with a pianist named San Thomas (Bruce Bennett) who’s given up on life dominate the running time of the picture.

The actors are all fine, and the stories are involving, but it’s the music that elevates this picture. Ida Lupino expertly lip synchs her numbers, which were sung by Peg La Centra (who can be seen in the flesh in the 1946 film Humoresque, singing and playing the piano in two scenes in a dive bar).

There’s also at least one allusion to a popular song in the dialogue. When Petey sees the twins and asks “Who hit the daily double?” Gloria responds gloomily, “Everything happens to me,” which is the title of a Matt Dennis and Tom Adair song first made popular by Frank Sinatra when he was singing for Tommy Dorsey’s band. There are probably other little in-jokes like that sprinkled throughout, but that was the only one I caught.

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8 responses »

  1. I saw this flick twice. Once via dvd recorded from an old TCM or AMC broadcast from my bootleg, classic movie guy in Canada (before the Warner Archives released it last year) – and recently at the Gene Siskel Film Center during a Raoul Walsh retrospective.
    I definitely appreciated the film more the second time around, sitting in an audience that laughed at Petey’s snappy come-backs and snorted at Gloria’s bad mothering.
    And you’re spot-on about the terrific music. From the opening with Lupino’s smoldering lip-sync of the title song, to the lush orchestral reprise during the final scene, it was the glue that bonded the divergent stories and characters together.
    I’ve begin to sort-of enjoy these highly stylized, rococo, later 40′s, noir-ish dramas. Although the storylines can be more complicated than Lupino’s hairdo and occasionally challenge the attention span.
    If you’re making your way through ’47, you’ll hopefully run in to “Repeat Performance” and farther down the road in ’48, “Ruthless”.
    Also – Bruce Bennett will always be “Bert” from Mildred Pierce to me.
    Love the blog!

    Reply
  2. Thanks, Brett!

    “Repeat Performance” and “Ruthless” are both on my list, but I’m limited by what’s available at any given time. If a film’s not available on DVD or streaming through Netflix, I’ll look for it on YouTube, Hulu, archive.org, etc., but if it’s not available any of those places, I’ll search for it to see if it’s available for download somewhere.

    “Ruthless” is available on Netflix, but I haven’t been able to find “Repeat Perfomance” anywhere.

    My last resort is some of the online retailers that sell TCM rips on DVD for $10+, but cost is a concern, as well as storage space (I don’t want to buy a DVD I’m only going to watch once). Tell me about “Repeat Performance.” Do you think it’s worth purchasing?

    Reply
    • I have the same problem. I collect too many DVD’s (bootlegs from ioffer, ebay, ect. – and legitimate releases) to keep them organized and stored neatly. And once I spend the money, I hesitate to throw them away – however mediocre or bad the film is.
      I’m amazed and heartened by the classic crime and noir offerings on Netflix streaming. It’ll be exciting to see how their catalog evolves, and what other companies, studios or channels follow suit.
      Go ahead and spend the 10 spot on a tv-to-dvd rip of “Repeat Performance” if you come across it. It has a terrific opening and a nail-biting ending…. although the middle is pure melodrama and may try your patience. But it does have a stellar performance by Richard Basehart and you get to see Natalie Schafer perform her usual schtick.
      I guess it’s a flick they used to broadcast on TV on New Year’s eve in the 70′s & 80′s, like they always show “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Xmas eve, but somehow has fallen into the void since. Even my poor quality bootleg is a tv-to-vhs-to-Dvd rip, from an A&E channel broadcast, probably from the early 90′s (back when I was graduating elementary school!).
      I read somewhere that a collector (or maybe even Joan Lelsie herself) owns an original print that gets shown occasionally at noir festivals. Perhaps Eddie Mueller or his foundation may find the resources to get it back into circulation again.
      I’m not sure why but I’m sort of drawn to those time-critical “night” themed noirs and crime flicks, like “Repeat Performance, Between Midnight & Dawn, Half-Past Midnight, Two O’Clock Courage, Deadline At Dawn, The Sun Sets at Dawn, The Desperate Hours, The Devil Thumbs a Ride” ect.
      Anyway….
      Let me know if you’re having trouble finding a film and I might be able to suggest a resource, or send you my list of movie sellers that I’ve stumbled across and haphazardly compiled.

      Reply
      • Thanks, Brett! I may do that. I got burned by one seller and ever since I’ve been a little leery of online retailers who sells classic movies on DVDr, so getting advice from someone who’s had good experiences would be invaluable.

        “Repeat Performance” definitely sounds like it’s worth a sawbuck. I haven’t seen a lot of the “night-themed” movies you listed, but “The Desperate Hours” is an old favorite, and “The Devil Thumbs a Ride” is coming up in the rotation soon (some time in February 1947). I’m looking forward to it, since I’m a big Lawrence Tierney fan.

        “Repeat Performance” has a May 1947 release date, so hopefully I’ll get to it no later than June. I wish I had more time for this project, since I’m getting behind. I also listen to radio shows every day that correspond to what day and month it is right now. It’s always three days ahead (to match up with the day of the week), so today is March 10, 2011, but it’s also March 13, 1947, and Howard Da Silva is on “Suspense” tonight.

        Most of the time, getting a little behind isn’t a big deal — this isn’t an exact science, and in the ’40s, movies were often released months apart in different cities — but lately they’ve been making a lot of jokes about “Nora Prentiss” on the Jack Benny show, and I don’t understand what they’re talking about, dammit!

        Oh, and you mentioned the Film Noir Foundation, so you’re probably already familiar with the forum at http://backalleynoir.com/, but if you’re not, check it out. There’s a thread on there about all the noir that’s available on Netflix streaming. I recently watched “Hot Cars” (1956) on their recommendation, and it was a hoot.

  3. I’m excited you get to see “The Devil Thumbs a Ride” soon. It has to be the second ultimate, cult-classic noir, behind “Detour” that far fewer people have seen.

    Not to build it up too much, but it’s an engrossing hour of sadism with occasional moments of weird, light humor. And the always unrepentant Tierney gets to create a night’s worth of mayhem while intimidating a bunch of innocent people, and worse. I highly recommended this flick!

    I’ve really been enjoying the wealth of available podcasts of classic radio programs like “Suspense” and sometimes “Dragnet” too. One of the best I’ve found is Jim Widner’s “Radio Detective Story Hour”, although I skip around a lot to find the episodes & shows that are more my taste. He typically rattles off an informative prologue before each episode, which sets his podcast apart from the many others on itunes. Plus you can also listen on his website.

    http://www.otr.com/blog/?p=158
    Lucille Ball and Cornell Woolrich make an intriguing pair.

    http://www.otr.com/blog/?p=445
    An interesting movie, so different from the original story.

    Nora Prentiss ia a pretty bleak little film. It sort of reminded me watching “The Scar” (“Hollow Triumph”) with Joan Bennett, in tone at least.

    The last classic movie I watched on Netflix was “Cry Vengeance”, which was fairly decent. Next up I think will be “the Cruel Tower”.

    Reply
  4. I checked out Jim Widner’s “Radio Detective Story Hour.” Is that Bernard Herrmann’s music from Taxi Driver that opens every episode? I think it is.

    I listened to “A Dime a Dance” a couple years ago. It’s a good one. Lucille Ball was on another episode of “Suspense” that has always stuck with me called “A Little Piece of Rope” in which she dresses up as a schoolgirl to attract older gentlemen and take them for all they’ve got. Of course, there’s also a serial killer on the loose…

    I’m really looking forward to “The Devil Thumbs a Ride,” so I don’t think you’ve built it up too much. Barry Gifford published a book of film essays, and he called it “The Devil Thumbs a Ride and Other Unforgettable Films.” That was where I first heard of it … more than 10 years ago.

    I’ll probably watch it and write a review in the next 2 to 3 weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Road House (Sept. 22, 1948) | OCD Viewer

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