|The Man I Love (1947)
Run time: Approved | 96 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Director: Raoul Walsh
Writers: Catherine Turney, Jo Pagano
Stars: Ida Lupino, Robert Alda, Andrea King
Taglines: There should be a law against knowing the things I found out about men!
Lupino turns vocalist as she plays a singer visiting her family, who catches the eye of a nightclub owner. Sleek and well-acted this film apparently inspired Scorsese’s New York, New York. Whatever, this is a MUCH better picture.
1. Ida Lupina’s singing voice was dubbed by Peg LaCentra.
2. Filmed in mid-1945, but wasn’t released until 1947.
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Raoul Walsh’s The Man I Love opens during an after-hours jam session at a Manhattan jazz boîte, the 39 Club, where Petey Brown (Ida Lupino, dubbed by Peg La Centra) sings the title song while expelling cigarette smoke. And it seems there was a man she loved, but we don’t hear much about him, except that their parting has given her wanderlust, leading her back home to California.
Living there is what’s left of the family of which she becomes de facto matriarch: Her sister Sally (Andrea King), whose shell-shocked husband (John Ridgely) is in a psychiatric hospital; younger sister Ginny (Martha Vickers); and ne’er-do-well brother Joe (Warren Douglas). Almost part of the family are next-apartment neighbors, the O’Connors – doting and deluded Johnny (Don McGuire) and discontented, two-timing Gloria (Dolores Moran, in a deliciously slutty turn).
They keep Lupino’s hands full, but a girl’s gotta make a living, too, so she slaps on the war-paint and slithers into a gown, landing a job as `canary’ in a nightspot operated by womanizing Nicky Toresca (Robert Alda). She keeps rather tepid company with him, until circumstance brings legendary jazz-piano man San Thomas (Bruce Bennett) into her life; the victim of an unhappy marriage, he’s currently AWOL from the Merchant Marine and thinks he’s lost his gift for the ivories. They kindle a volatile liaison (apparently the template from which Martin Scorsese struck the romance between Francine Evans and Jimmy Doyle in New York, New York). But Lupino’s two lives, family and romantic, start to interlock disruptively….
An unlikely amalgam of freighted, ’40s romance, low-key musical and a touch of film noir, The Man I Love relies less on plot than on old-fashioned story. It’s a complicated and ever-shifting story that Walsh manages to juggle adroitly (though he lets a couple of Indian clubs clatter to the floor – the shut-away husband and the Vickers character don’t come to much, and the usually glamorous King is ill-garbed as the long-suffering hausfrau).
But Lupino, though she shares the movie with a large cast, stays at its center – strong and smart-mouthed but compassionate and vulnerable. (Her grand exit, smiling through tears on the waterfront, recall’s Barbara Stanwyck’s in Stella Dallas.) Bennett proves a good match for her, in a strong, shaded performance (though top billing among the males goes to Alda, looking like a young Danny Thomas and delivering no more than a bland, generic heavy).
The Man I Love exerts a nostalgic pull that avoids (barely) the campy and the overwrought. Though there’s a violent death, it’s not a violent film, nor even, really, a crime story. Coming from the immediate post-war era when emotions were still running high and not yet subject to over-analysis, it serves up its thick stew with gusto. Yes, it ends a little too daintily, but with its torch songs, its messy relationships, and unabashed commitment, it still makes a memorable meal.
Ida Lupino was a magnificent actress who fulfilled the promise of intelligence and talent that always seemed to burn in her eyes by demonstrating her creative moxie as a director. Unfortunately, her career in front of the camera often found her in cast off looking pot-boilers (she got to rummage through what was rejected by Davis, Crawford, and whoever else might be hot at the moment).
This noir-ish romantic weepy with a bad nicotine cough was typical of the sows ears she tried to make fit like silk. Filmed in 1945….and not widely released til early in 1947…it is filled with competent but rather second string talent…many of whom never quite made it to the top rung. Bruce Bennett (who deserves great credit for being one of the few actors to survive being cast as Tarzan without forever being typed and stymied) does his usual low key but very sincere turn as Ida's Piano whiz turned world weary seaman (don't ask). Robert Alda is effectively smarmy as the dame hungry club owner…after Ida and just about every other female with a pulse…it is a shame that playing George Gershwin (in "Rhapsody in Blue") and having this meaty part in a film based around one of the Gershwin's greatest standards didn't lead to bigger and better film roles.
The world weary atmosphere of jaded postwar funk that lingers over the film like a cloud of smoke and stale perfume is More persuasive than the rather clunky script…( you have to give the writers credit for gaul however…the final clinch lines are lifted almost verbatim from "Now Voyager" and "Casablanca"…and tend to make this end up looking more shallow and tacky than it is).
The musical sequences are great…and Ida seems ideally suited for the role of a jam session diva…even if she did have to borrow a voice for the part. The atmosphere of electric bluesy ambiance was seldom captured better on film until Garland nailed it to perfection wailing about "the Man that got away" in 1954.
Unfortunately several numbers are missing from the print shown on TCM (which runs only 89 minutes…and is in DREADFUL shape…with many scratches, spices, breaks, and reals where the images look like something from a cheap public domain dupe of a dupe).
Here's hoping someone in the Warner Brother's Library does some digging…finds the original negative…and restores this..because Ida deserved the very best…even if she seldom got it.
This superb film shows Ida Lupino in top form, oozing enough torment and emotion to knock you out cold. She almost does that to shy, retiring Bruce Bennett, who does a magnificent job of playing San Thomas, a famous blues pianist who 'suddenly disappeared because his wife left him', but now turns up just in time for Ida to fall head over heels for him. The great, hulking Bennett, who had once been in real life an Olympic silver medallist (and whom Ida calls affectionately her 'big lug') is just about the best choice old pro director Raoul Walsh could possibly have made for the role. His innate, brooding melancholy gives the film the picquancy and authenticity a mere performance alone could never have achieved. The chemistry between Bennett and Lupino is so hot you could fry an egg on it in ten seconds. The dialogue really crackles. Bennett: 'Isn't life difficult enough without getting it mixed up with memories?' Lupino: 'I don't know. I don't go back far enough yet.' The film is full of fabulous music, not least the Gershwin theme song 'The Man I Love', sung by Ida with such style your jaw drops and your heart stops. The film is a must for music lovers of the better popular music of the late forties, and the artists who are seen performing. Bennett really plays the piano himself, which is a greater surprise even than seeing Dan Duryea play in one of his crime thrillers. Some of those Hollywood actors certainly knew how to let rip on the keyboard. The whole film sizzles and zizzles. Robert Alda plays an odious serial seducer who owns a nightclub where Ida sings. She hates him. Here is what she says on one occasion when he walks in. Ida: 'Do you always come in without knocking? You almost scared me right out of my new hair dye.' A lot of the wit has unexpected twists like that, which emphasizes the intense individualism of Ida. She is a real role model for the Independent Woman, and the shocking scene where she violently slaps a man repeatedly in the face as if she were a hired thug is so incredible, because it is done so nonchalantly and naturally, that you can imagine her easily playing a female Al Capone in a female gangster film. But of course Ida has the proverbial heart of gold, though she gives it away too easily. What a brilliant woman Ida Lupino was, one of the few high intellects in Hollywood, director of several controversial films which tackled head on taboo subjects like disability and bigamy. She could set the screen on fire whether she was behind or in front of the camera. But did I say camera? She didn't even need one! All she had to do was breathe, and a fresh wind swept through Hollywood. All she had to do was look at a lens, and it melted. This film also features fine performances by Andrea King as a good gal and Dolores Moran as a bad gal, and some fine singing from Tony Romano. I've seen it twice, that's not enough.
Ida Lupino excelled at playing tough, yet vulnerable, women. One of the best Ida Lupino films, "The Man I Love" is all about atmosphere. It has great music, great images, and great lines all tied to a fast-paced and entertaining, if unlikely, story. This film influenced director Martin Scorsese when he made "New York, New York". Scorsese’s film is overlong and overdone, but "The Man I Love" is brisk and sleek. You won’t be bored. If you enjoy "The Man I Love", I also recommend the Ida Lupino film "Road House".