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The Man I Love

by Glenn Erickson Jun 29, 2024

Ida Lupino shows ’em how a real movie star takes possession of the screen in Raoul Walsh’s excellent romantic drama set among night clubs in Long Beach. The war is over and Lupino’s Petey Brown can’t stop drifting, looking for the right man. A chance trip to visit her siblings entangles her in their personal issues, plus a lecherous new boss. An unhappy jazz pianist might be the man of Petey’s dreams — if he can shake off an old flame. Supporting Ida are Bruce Bennett, Robert Alda, Andrea King, Martha Vickers and Dolores Moran. The soundtrack melodies adapt classic standards, starting with the title tune. This new restoration is said to restore 6 missing minutes to the movie.


The Man I Love
Blu-ray
Warner Archive Collection
1946 / B&W / 1:37 Academy / 96 min. / working titles Why Was I Born?, Night Shift / Available at MovieZyng / Street Date June 25, 2024 / 21.99
Starring: Ida Lupino, Robert Alda, Andrea King, Martha Vickers, Bruce Bennett, Alan Hale, Dolores Moran, John Ridgely, Don McGuire, Warren Douglas, Craig Steven, Tony Romano, Florence Bates, Frank Ferguson, Peg La Centra (singing dub).
Cinematography: Sidney Hickox
Art Director: Stanley Fleischer
Wardrobe: Milo Anderson
Film Editor: Owen Marks
Music Adaptor, additional music composer: Max Steiner
Musical Director: Leo F. Forbstein
Featured Songs: The Man I Love by George & Ira Gershwin, If I Could Be with You by Jimmy Johnson & Henry Creamer, Bill by Jerome Kern & P.G. Wodehouse,
Why Was I Born? by Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II
Screenplay by Catherine Turney, adaptation Jo Pagano, Catherine Turney from a novel by Maritta Wolff
Executive Producer: Jack L. Warner
Produced by Arnold Albert
Directed by Raoul Walsh

The Warner Archive Collection continues its campaign of Blu-rays for classic Raoul Walsh films:  They Drive by Night,  The Strawberry Blonde,  Objective, Burma!,  A Lion Is in the Streets and  Gentleman Jim … and that’s not counting the ones Criterion snapped up:  High Sierra (which includes Colorado Territory), and  The Roaring Twenties.

Walsh was as proud of his accomplishments as a star-maker as he was a director, and he played a major role in helping Ida Lupino to top stardom. Not that Ms. Lupino needed much help to accomplish that — she achieved her acting toehold at Warners when execs realized that her ‘type’ slotted easily into roles that Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Olivia de Havilland might shy away from. Versatile as all get-out, Lupino could play most anything. She didn’t mind providing support for Humphrey Bogart or John Garfield — and she didn’t miss an opportunity to advance. In They Drive By Night she purposely took her acting over the top, going just far enough to get the attention she needed. Raoul Walsh clearly responded to her show-biz nerve — on High Sierra, her star billing came before that of Bogart.

The Man I Love gives Ida Lupino the chance at a star vehicle of her own. She plays a singer, and none of the big WB actresses did their own singing. Ida is dubbed exceedingly well by Peg La Centra. The character also has to convince as genuine man-bait, which wasn’t Davis’ or de Havilland’s style. Studios were known to control big stars by hiring effective ‘understudy’ types that could conceivably take their place. Ida Lupino soon proved that she wasn’t filling in for anyone.

The movie is all the more impressive when one realizes how many things it tries to be the same time: a heated romance, a musical, a veterans-come-home problem picture. Several elements have similarities with the just-released  The Best Years of Our Lives. Instead of a big star leading man or top support players, Lupino played opposite cast of ‘available’ talent from the WB contractee roster. Even the property was a hand-me-down — it had been put together for Ann Sheridan and Humphrey Bogart, over three years before.

 

On the rebound from yet another failed romance, club singer Petey Brown leaves NYC for Long Beach, California, to check in with siblings she hasn’t seen in years. Younger sister Ginny (Martha Vickers, the thumb-sucking nympho of  The Big Sleep) is just beginning to date, while the older, married sister Sally (Andrea King of  The Beast with Five Fingers and  Red Planet Mars) is waiting tables at a restaurant owned by Nicky Toresca (Robert Alda of  Nora Prentiss). Nicky makes offensive passes at every opportunity. Petey’s younger brother Joey (Warren Douglas, screenwriter of  Loophole) has also taken a job with Nicky, and is picking up some of his boss’s less savory qualities.

Petey arrives on Christmas Eve, to find the apartment in disarray. Joey exits, perhaps on some illicit errand for Nicky Toresca. Sally explains that she’s waitressing to support her son Buddy (Patrick Griffin, unbilled), because her husband Roy (John Ridgely of  Arsenic and Old Lace) is in an Army hospital. He’s had a (combat-related?) nervous breakdown, and is hostile toward Sally. The innocent Ginny is paying too much attention to Johnny O’Connor (Don McGuire of  Armored Car Robbery),  the handsome married man across the hall. Johnny is the proud father of twin babies, but is blind to the faults of his attractive wife Gloria (Dolores Moran of  To Have and Have Not). While pretending to be going out with girlfriends, Gloria is actually carrying on affairs with other men.

 

Petey goes to tell Nicky Toresca to lay off Sally, and ends up taking a job singing at his club. He thinks she’s an easy conquest, but Petey instead begins a love affair with San Thomas (Bruce Bennett of  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre), a once-famous jazz pianist who has ‘disappeared’ into the Merchant Marine as an ordinary sailor. As much as they obviously need each other, the pessimistic San doesn’t think they have a chance — he is still hung up on his ex-wife. Not wanting to hurt Petey; he signs up to ship out again, his way of evading his problems.

Petey encourages Sally to keep supporting Roy’s recovery. But other problems aren’t as easy to clear up. Nicky’s aggressively covets Petey, yet takes time out to seduce the foolishly too-eager Gloria. After a one-night stand, Nicky gives Joey the errand of taking the drunken Gloria home. It turns into big trouble —  Johnny is not prepared to accept what his wife has been up to.

The powerhouse presence of Ida Lupino propels us through The Man I Love. She’s convincing as a singer. Petey says that she’s unambitious, but all that means is that the welfare of her loved ones is a higher priority. Petey has plenty of experience handling men, and she needs it all to keep Nicky at bay. Bailing a morose stranger out of jail, she finds out only later that he’s a musician she’s admired for years, San Thomas. Ida Lupino holds the center of the drama at all times, yet never seems to be hogging the spotlight — Joan Crawford wouldn’t have tolerated Dolores Moran’s outwardly sexier characterization.    Ms. Lupino’s close-ups are killers, and in her care the good dialogue plays even better.

• We’re accustomed to ‘compressed’ dialogue laden with necessary exposition; good writers of this era managed to disguise their Info Dumps with natural setups and clever banter. But we have to say that there is one scene between Lupino’s Petey and Bruce Bennett’s San where the quality of the writing takes a nosedive. It’s as if a Warner exec decided that their murky relationship needed to be clarified, with no ambiguity left standing. For about forty seconds, the two actors trade dialogue that sounds like raw character descriptions turned into chit chat: ‘I am this’ and ‘you are that.’ Only the solid performing and the film’s accumulated emotional credibility gets them through.

Can Raoul Walsh take credit for the smooth meshing of performances, or did his pro actors know naturally how to make the relationships work?  Robert Alda is a total cad, yet never quite goes over the top. Dolores Moran has a much better showcase here than in her planned  big breakout film, where she instead was asked to ‘take one for the team.’    Andrea King has a solid utility role, and covers it well. Martha Vickers’ sweetness and innocence may have seemed off-kilter to viewers that had just seen The Big Sleep, a movie that had actually been filmed almost two years earlier.

Bruce Bennett was rarely given a role as good or as big as San Thomas. The piano player’s low morale never becomes a bore and he and Lupino make a fine & passionate pair. John Ridgely was perhaps the most-used actor in the WB corral, who almost never got a truly memorable part. Even after doing so well in Hawks’  Air Force, his work wasn’t singled out for praise.

Alan Hale is the only Warners contractee playing an entirely stock role — his character delivers messages and provides a little comedy relief, sniffing after Nicky Toresca’s showgirls. The much less established Don McQuire and Warren Douglas fulfill the needs of their roles, but also don’t stand out that much. Interestingly, both would shift their efforts from acting to writing. Poor Craig Stevens can’t have had much traction at all — he’s barely in the movie.

 

That tangle of soap-opera relationships makes perfect sense in the tight, logical screenplay by Catherine Turney, whose  No Man of Her Own and  My Reputation are excellent vehicles for Barbara Stanwyck. Turney is also the author and screenwriter of the interesting horror film  Back from the Dead. This script doesn’t stress the hard times being experienced by Petey’s family, even though all three siblings and a son are living in the same apartment, and only Sally has a regular job. What with Roy in the Army hospital and events being controlled by the exploitative Nicky Toresca, we’re reminded of that contributing writer Jo Pagano was known for movies about social injustice. His  Try and Get Me! is one of the most bitterly subversive of ‘radical’ noirs. For all its down moods, The Man I Love remains a romantic drama, not a social critique. Interestingly, when Ida Lupino began producing and directing her own movies, she steered away from glossy studio romanticism and instead engaged with harder, real-life issues: bigamy, polio, rape.

Raoul Walsh barely mentions Ida Lupino in his autobiography, which incorrectly states that they worked together only twice. The professionalism of the finished film proves that they got along fine. Ms. Lupino is naturally given the film’s final image, which turns a downbeat finale into a hopeful one. Just as in High Sierra, our last impression is the expression on her emotion-filled face. Nobody will walk away from The Man I Love without knowing that Lupino is a fine actress and a top star.

 


 

The Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray of The Man I Love revives yet another WB classic into top form. That fanfare music cue blazes in behind the giant studio shield logo. The film had more than one working title — the final was likely decided when the Gershwin standard became Petey Brown’s signature piece. The song made its debut years before, in a 1924 Broadway musical comedy.

Sidney Hickox gives the film a fine look, especially considering that it appears to be filmed entirely on studio soundstages … I think. WB had some impressive sets, but the concluding dock scene might be a location. Hickox filmed a lot of pictures for Walsh and also for Howard Hawks. His close-ups for Ida Lupino are exceptional.

We’re told that The Man I Love has been missing 6 minutes ever since a 1956 reissue. It was cut because Warners didn’t want to pay to re-license the rights to the Kern-Wodehouse song ‘Bill.’ An entire performance that was dropped has now been reinstated. Warners and the WAC continue to maintain and improve the studio library holdings.

The presentation comes with an original trailer partly made of outtakes and alternate angles. It is ‘hosted’ by Don McGuire, who pretends that he’s a jazz trumpeter. Also on the bill are two cartoons from 1947, but not Slick Hare and Roughly Squeaking, the ones listed on the package and in the WAC’s notes. Instead we get Rabbit Transit, a Bugs Bunny takeoff on ‘The Tortoise and the Hare,’ and the interesting Crowing Pains with the characters Henery Hawk, Foghorn Leghorn and Sylvester the Cat. It’s an unofficial Mel Blanc festival — he does all of the character voices for both short subjects.

We note with amusement that the poster for The Man I Love brandishes one of those ‘heated romance’ teaser taglines, the kind Warners publicity deemed essential to attract female moviegoers.    Here’s a selection from four movies between 1945 and about 1950: I’ve already forgotten which goes with which movie. You’ll want to enlarge the graphic or open it in a new window … the important thing to remember is that All Women are Treacherous!

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson


The Man I Love
Blu-ray rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Excellent
Sound: Excellent
Supplements:
Original Trailer
Classic WB cartoons Rabbit Transit and Crowing Pains.
Deaf and Hearing-impaired Friendly? YES; Subtitles: English (feature only)

Packaging: One Blu-ray in Keep case
Reviewed:
June 25, 2024
(7150love)CINESAVANT

Final product for this review was provided free by The Warner Archive Collection.

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Text © Copyright 2024 Glenn Erickson

About Glenn Erickson

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 6.51.08 PM

Glenn Erickson left a small town for UCLA film school, where his spooky student movie about a haunted window landed him a job on the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS effects crew. He’s a writer and a film editor experienced in features, TV commercials, Cannon movie trailers, special montages and disc docus. But he’s most proud of finding the lost ending for a famous film noir, that few people knew was missing. Glenn is grateful for Trailers From Hell’s generous offer of a guest reviewing haven for CineSavant.

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cadavra

Didn’t Scorsese cite this as an influence on NEW YORK, NEW YORK?

zafrom

Thank you Glenn for another enticing review, treacherous for a savings account. A favorite singer is Peg LaCentra or La Centra, her recordings available under both surnames. For me, her voice is distinctive. But during January-April 1947 she was Ida Lupino’s singing voice, then as herself singing onscreen, then as Susan Hayward’s singing voice. Peg’s recordings with Artie Shaw and others in the mid thirties are worth checking out. Two of my favorites are “It Ain’t Right” and “You Can Tell She Comes from Dixie”, whether or not that you can tell that she was from Boston.

martyn crosthwaite

BRILLIANT REVIEW

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