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The Man I Love (1949)

The Man I Love Poster

  Dir Raoul Walsh - Ida Lupino a torch singer lands a job at small-time-hood Nicky Toresca's nightclub. While evading the sleazy Toresca's heavy-handed passes at her, she falls in love with down-and-out ex-jazz pianist  Womans Noir Just Started.

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I first saw this film years ago and liked it enough that I wrote this review.

 

A Neglected Gem from Raoul Walsh
Posted: Dec 16, 2012 5:34 PM

Amazing, isn’t it, when you watch a film that you never really even heard of, and find yourself drawn into it right from the beginning.

I discovered a little Warner Brothers gem, The Man I Love, filmed in 1945 and held up two years before its eventual release. It’s a difficult film to categorize by genre, part noir (certainly in appearance), part exploration of club life, particularly the jazz scene, part human drama. It was directed by Raoul Walsh in such a smooth, effortless fashion, with his gliding camerawork, that I want to scream out, “Why do people stereotype this man as just an action director?” He could be, on occasions such as this, so much more.

It’s a film about lonely people, or at least, those searching for something in the big city, dissatisfied with their existing lot in life.

The opening scene alone is worth the price of admission, and it’s got to be something of a classic. Two drunks outside a club, attracted to the music inside, are refused entry through the establishment’s locked doors, told that it’s “crazy” people inside having a good time by themselves. Walsh takes us inside and there it is, a smoke filled jazz-tinged session of the Gershwin title tune.

Walsh shows great respect for the jazz musicians performing. As the camera slowly, lovingly explores this group, the director gives a few of them their own brief moment. The sax player with a closeup of his fingers, the coronet player, the drummer, then back to the coronet player, only this time it's a shadowy closeup of his face.

The film’s star, Ida Lupino, then starts to sing The Man I Love off screen. Walsh teases the viewers, letting them hear the song’s opening lyrics before allowing them to have their first sighting of Lupino. Even then she has her back partially to the camera as she casually moves to let us see her in profile, a cigarette in her hand, from which she casually flicks an ash.

No, it’s not Lupino’s voice. She’s dubbed, but the voice sounds right, like it could be her’s, and Lupino, beautifully attired, then gets her first closeup, as a giant cloud of cigarette smoke escapes her mouth. And you can see it in this actress, you can see it in her eyes, that connection with the song that she’s singing (which will also come to represent her character, as it turns out).

“One day he’ll come along, the man I love.

“And he’ll be big and strong, the man I love . . .”

Lupino brings so much feeling to these lyrics with her expression. You’re already ready to believe in her character at this point before you even get to know her. And you see her comaraderie with the musicians, particularly at that moment in the song in which she lights the pianist’s unlit cigarette with her own.

How I wish George Gershwin could have seen this moment that Walsh, Lupino , the cinematographer with that great smoky black-and-white photography, and the set designer, in addition to those real musicians playing there, all bring to his song. This three minute song sequence is a loving tribute to Gershwin’s haunting hurting masterpiece.

Even if you don’t care for the rest of the film (which I find impossible to believe) you HAVE to see The Man I Love if only for this opening. All those who love jazz, who appreciate films like Young Man with a Horn or Blues in the Night, will find something to love about this introduction that Walsh gave his film.

There are myriad characters in the film, and I don’t want to bog this brief tribute down by listing them all. Lupino’s character travels from New York City to California to see her family but her character is leaving one bad relationship and now drifting. There’s the sleazy night club owner, well played by Robert Alda, who only has opportunism on his mind, be it with a woman for a night or taking over someone else’s nightclub. Alda's character is fairly despicable, putting the obvious charm on one moment, angrily snapping the next when things are not going his way.

There’s also Bruce Bennett as a jazz pianist who was ripped apart by a divorce, and remains haunted by that relationship. Lupino, also hurting, finds it easy to make a connection with him but he’s reluctant to commit. Walsh does something with Bennett in this film.

Bennett , a big boned former Olympian, who made a career in character support in Hollywood, largely at Warners, will never be on anyone’s list of great actors. But there was always a bit of a hang dog sadness about him, and it works beautifully in this part. You can see the pain in his face as he laments over his lost love from the past. There’s also an essential decency about his character (especially in contrast to the sleazy nightclub owner) by which you can fully understand Lupino being drawn to him and wanting to take a chance. Bennett is quietly wonderful in the part. It has to rank as one of his best performances.

And for a film that is about a collection of people dissatisfied with their lives, an extension of that can be found in this most capable cast, none of whom enjoyed satisfactory careers in Hollywood. There was Alda, initially playing, ironically, George Gershwin in a high gloss biopic before Warners then cast him in supporting roles, often of a sleazy nature, such as in this film.

Then there was Bruce Bennett, a solid, if somewhat rather dull supporting player for the most part, though effective on occasion, such as in this film, Treasure of Sierra Madre (as Cody) and when playing Mildred Pierce’s former husband. Then look at the rundown of actresses in this film, all briefly appearing in Warners films before largely disappearing, Dolores Moran, effectively cast as a spoiled brat in The Man I Love who falls in with the nightclub owner, Martha Vickers, best remembered today as Lauren Bacall’s thumb-sucking **** sister in The Big Sleep, and Andrea King, leading lady of The Beast with Five Fingers.

There’s even Lupino. Strong performer that she was, and briefly viewed as Warner’s chief dramatic studio challenge to Bette Davis, after a strong start the studio seemed to lose interest in her. The Man I Love, released in 1947, would be one of her last effective roles before she would become the only actress I can recall who went behind the camera as director when it was apparent that acting opportunities were no longer coming her way. She was a capable director but what a loss it was for all of us that she could no longer find the right roles as an actress.

The Man I Love is not a great film. There is, however, a wistful melancholy about the production, with a moody ambience encompassing its lost characters, that makes it a highly affecting drama. This is a neglected Raoul Walsh melodrama that deserves a look, and then another. If only for that opening scene set in a nightclub late at night. Trust me on this one.

 

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In case anyone missed it this morning, The Man I Love is also scheduled by TCM for Monday, June 15th at 12 am (midnight) ET, apparently part of a Jazz in Film theme that evening.

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Tom, thanks for a great review. I remember how good the opening was, and how surprisingly sexy Bruce Bennett was. Who knew? Ida is outstanding, but then she usually is. She was one of the best actresses of her time.

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A Heads Up for Neo Noir Musical Pennies From Heaven (1981) - MONDAY, MAY 11 @ 04:00 AM (ET)  Hey with the Coronavirus we can stay up all night long if we want too, lol.

2568583.jpg

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3 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

Tuesday one Noir Undercurrent (1946) not a fave 9:00 AM ET

Undercurrent Poster

 

Not a fave of mine, either. Mitchum and Hepburn have zero chemistry on screen and detested each other off screen. Hepburn has very little chemistry with Robert Taylor, either. It's really a gothic or damsel-in-distress film rather than a noir. The story is familiar enough that it has to depend on the casting, and the casting doesn't work for me.

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2 minutes ago, Hibi said:

Twice in a week??? Didnt they just show it a few wks ago???

You may be thinking of The House of Bamboo,  another Japanese related noir film (but that one is set in Tokyo instead of Los Angeles).

 

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5 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

You may be thinking of The House of Bamboo,  another Japanese related noir film (but that one is set in Tokyo instead of Los Angeles).

 

Yea and its on after Kimono

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Ok I'm confused. THE CRIMSON KIMONO is on tonight at 8:00 PM and it's on Noir Alley with Eddie this Saturday night and Sunday Morning, correct? Has this ever happened before? Why would they show the same movie within four days? 

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54 minutes ago, Hoganman1 said:

Ok I'm confused. THE CRIMSON KIMONO is on tonight at 8:00 PM and it's on Noir Alley with Eddie this Saturday night and Sunday Morning, correct? Has this ever happened before? Why would they show the same movie within four days? 

I know ,Probably part of a Sam Fuller night or something but at least its on at a decent time tonight 

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2 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

Tonight, it's part of the Asian-Americans in Hollywood theme of the month. And then all the Noir Alleys get double showings.

Now you an watch it and see if you agree with Eddies observations on the Alley

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7 hours ago, Hoganman1 said:

Ok I'm confused. THE CRIMSON KIMONO is on tonight at 8:00 PM and it's on Noir Alley with Eddie this Saturday night and Sunday Morning, correct? Has this ever happened before? Why would they show the same movie within four days? 

Sign of the times on TCM. This often happens with certain films

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6 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

Tonight, it's part of the Asian-Americans in Hollywood theme of the month. And then all the Noir Alleys get double showings.

Their getting their moneys wort,....

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On now

The Naked City Poster

 

Color Noir  NIAGARA (1953) 6:15 P ET Today

Niagara Poster

 

 Thursday has a bunch

LADY IN THE LAKE(1947) Thursday 6:00 PM

Lady in the Lake Poster

DOUBLE INDEMNITY THURSDAY, MAY 21 @ 11:30 PM (ET)

Double Indemnity Poster

THE STRANGER THURSDAY, MAY 21 @ 01:30 AM (ET)

The Stranger Poster

ILLEGAL THURSDAY, MAY 21 @ 05:15 AM (ET

Illegal Poster

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18 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

Color Noir  NIAGARA (1953) 6:15 P ET Today

Niagara Poster

To me..not so noir-ish...

Maybe if it had been filmed in black and white.

This film reminded me more of a Alfred Hitchcock story...

minus the suspense.

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1 hour ago, Arteesto said:

 

To me..not so noir-ish...

Maybe if it had been filmed in black and white.

This film reminded me more of a Alfred Hitchcock story...

minus the suspense.

You can look at the Color Noirs of the Classic Film Noir era as the first Neo Noirs, and that Noir and Neo Noir existed side by side with pretty much the only difference being one shot in B&W the other in Color.  

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3 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

You can look at the Color Noirs of the Classic Film Noir era as the first Neo Noirs, and that Noir and Neo Noir existed side by side with pretty much the only difference being one shot in B&W the other in Color.  

Interesting way to look at this,  especially if one's focus is on the visuals rather than (or over),  noir themes and associated characters. 

E.g.  Leave Her to Heaven;    Is it or isn't it?      I say it is a noir, with strong neo noir overtones,   due to the visuals (e.g.  when she rides in the hills during the sunset and the colors change creating a lot of contrasts),   but also for the noir theme of obsession.      In Leave Her to Heaven the obsession is about her deceased father.    In Niagara it is about a husband that knows he has been throw overboard for another man by his highly sexual wife.

 

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There are at least 12-13 Color Noir or the "Neo Noir" if I remember right. Besides Niagara, there's Leave Her To Heaven, Slightly Scarlet, Inferno, Bad Day At Black Rock, Desert Fury, Vertigo, Rear Window, Dial M For Murder, RopeI Died  A Thousand TimesA Kiss Before Dying, Violent Saturday, and Hell's Island and maybe a couple of others out there.

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