Robert Alda and Ida Lupino in The Man I Love (1946)


(director: Raoul Walsh; screenwriters: from the novel “Night Shift” by Maritta M. Wolff/Catherine Turney/Jo Pagano/W.R. Burnett-uncredited; cinematographer: Sid Hickox; editor: Owen Marks; music: Jerome Kern/Max Steiner; cast: Ida Lupino (Petey Brown), Robert Alda (Nicky Toresca), Bruce Bennett (San Thomas), Andrea King (Sally Otis), Martha Vickers (Virginia Brown), Alan Hale (Riley), Dolores Moran (Gloria O’Connor), Warren Douglas (Joe Brown), Don McGuire (Johnny O’Connor), John Ridgely (Roy Otis), Patrick Griffin (Buddy Otis); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Arnold Albert; Warner Bros.; 1946)
Except for Ida Lupino’s feisty performance as a tortured woman in love who tries to help her family, the acting was weak.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Raoul Walsh directs a snappy but illogical melodrama that doesn’t date well. Except for Ida Lupino’s feisty performance as a tortured woman in love who tries to help her family, the acting was weak. Based on the novel “Night Shift” by Maritta M. Wolff and adapted to the screen by a host of screenwriters, including the main writer Catherine Turney, this morbid soap opera story spins out of control as the characters get bounced around in their attempt to live with dignity while undergoing emotional stress. The dialogue was sappy, and the situation was one big clich√©.

“Man” opens in an after-hour jazz club on 52nd Street in Manhattan where the regular singer, the saddened Petey Brown (Lupino), belts out “The Man I Love” theme song in a jam session. It was written by jazz pianist San Thomas (Bennett), who has disappeared from the scene and is someone Petey would have liked to have met. Feeling lonely and homesick and trying to get over a recent bad romance, Petey travels to Long Beach, California, to unexpectedly join her two sisters and brother for Christmas.

Petey rescues her hard-working married waitress sister Sally (King) from the advances of her lecherous nightclub boss Nicky Toresca (Alda). Sally’s war hero army sergeant husband, Roy, is in a military hospital recovering from a nervous breakdown and shellshock. Their young son Buddy has to fight neighborhood children who tease him that his father is a mental case. Also, younger brother Joey (Douglas) is a flunky for the rotten nightclub owner and sides with his oily boss over his sister’s objections. To ease the pressure exerted by Nicky on Sally, Petey gets a singing job at the nightclub and becomes the playboy Nicky’s love interest despite detesting him. The other single sister, the younger Virginia (Vickers), looks up to Nicky but remains out of the picture. In the apartment building, Sally’s married neighbor’s, John and Gloria O’Connor, are having some marital difficulties. Nice guy John is wild-eyed about his sexy wife and is a better parent to their baby twin boys than the neglectful mom. When John is briefly hospitalized because of an arm infection, Gloria rushes out to the nightclub and is glad that Nicky pounces on her.

While Petey is nightclubbing on New Year’s Eve with Nicky at the rival Bamboo club, she runs into at the bar the tall stranger she bailed out who got into a fight with her obnoxious brother and was falsely blamed for the fight. She is strangely attracted to him and in their conversation she finds out he’s a merchant marine who is stuck in town to wait for another boat. The stranger surprises her when he says his name is San Thomas and that his career took a dive after his failed marriage to a wealthy Long Island socialite, a woman who is no good for him but whom he still loves despite her dumping him. He has since become an alcoholic and his talent dissipated. These two lost souls try to rekindle a spark in their lives by getting together, but San is still hopelessly in love with his ex-wife. Petey still loves him, but refuses to be second fiddle. They depart in uncertainty, with his last words being “Here’s looking at you, baby.” All Petey’s meddling did some good, but couldn’t save everyone from one-dimensional villain Nicky’s clutches. If the characters weren’t harmed by Nicky, all their smoking and stress would have certainly killed them.

The film might have inspired Martin Scorcese’s New York, New York, but failed to inspire me.