Director: Raoul Walsh
Known for his intuitive direction and sheer physical artistry in the realm of action cinema, Raoul Walsh's forays into other genres were largely undervalued. A magnificent and moody |azz infused melodrama The Man I Love is arguably an overlooked masterwork.
Petey Brown (Ida Lupino) a straight shooting New York nightclub singer (her sultry swing rendition of the title number is a standout-the vocals courtesy of 40s band singer Peg LaCentra are uncannily Lupino in style) returns home to California to a storm of dissatisfied women and off-kilter masculinity. From her sister with the war traumatised husband to the weak neighbourhood nice guy with the 'spoilt wife, from the hard-on-her-heels nightclub owning Lothario (the smooth as brylcreem Robert Alda) to a wayward younger brother Petey 'mothers' or maneuvers mixing sagely advice with a few good backhanders. Then fate deals her a blow as she falls for a broken-down piano player hung up on a past passion whose love can only ever be second hand. Resolute rather than resigned however, Petey (like another key Lupino role in Walsh s High Sierra) knows what she wants and is willing to settle for less than the romantic ideal.
Said to be the director's favourite actress, Lupino is exceptional, carving out a performance that transcends the caustic-tongued glamour gal cliches Walsh ever the consummate storyteller is here at the height of his powers at Warners (the studio's distinctive production values shine in this fabulous new 35mm print). He constructs an edgy, finely tuned narrative clothed in song and heartache and together they explore the complex emotional discord at the heart of a post-war America riven with familial disfunction and mismatched desires All this to the haunting strains of a Gershwin tune. (AH)