THE MAN I LOVE is irresistible from the moment it starts, as the sumptuous title song plays over the opening credits, leading into star Ida Lupino singing the song during a late-night jam session with a group of musicians. I was hooked.
Lupino's torch singer, Petey Brown, then goes home to Long Beach, California, to join her family for Christmas: sister Sally (Andrea King), whose husband is in a veterans' hospital with what we now call post-traumatic stress syndrome; little sister Ginny (Martha Vickers); and brother Joe (Warren Brown). Soon Petey is pursued by a womanizing mobster (Robert Alda), while simultaneously she -- somewhat inexplicably -- falls in love with a sad-sack pianist (Bruce Bennett).
The film is grand soap opera, with myriad story lines -- probably too many for its own good -- all held together by a wonderful Ida Lupino performance as the charismatic singer. The movie is part romance, part domestic family drama, and part musical, with a bit of film noir on the side. There's great mood, with foggy beaches, musicians playing in smoke-filled joints, dramatic piano music, and Lupino singing in dazzling gowns by Milo Anderson.
(Speaking of smoke, there is a dizzying amount of smoking in this movie, and not a little drinking, too. It's a wonder Petey had any lungs left for singing.)
Ida Lupino's vocals were dubbed effectively by Peg LaCentra, who the same year also dubbed Lupino in ESCAPE ME NEVER. 1947 also saw LaCentra dubbing Susan Hayward in Hayward's Oscar-nominated role in SMASH-UP: THE STORY OF A WOMAN.
The film is somewhat risque for its era...for instance, as the worldly-wise Lupino and Alda banter, we notice they're each wearing rings on the fourth finger of the left hand. What's that all about?
Nothing seems to be seen of the real Long Beach -- the city of my birth -- although a sign indicating a building is on Pine and a reference to the Pike serve as brief nods to the film's setting. THE MAN I LOVE is, incidentally, credited as the inspiration for a film set in another city: Martin Scorsese's NEW YORK, NEW YORK.
The supporting cast includes Dolores Moran, Alan Hale, Craig Stevens (in a small role as a bandleader), and Don McGuire. McGuire also had a career as a writer, including an Oscar nomination for the screenplay of TOOTSIE.
The film was directed by Raoul Walsh, who had previously directed Lupino in three other films, including HIGH SIERRA and THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT; THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT was reviewed here earlier this month.
THE MAN I LOVE was filmed in black and white and runs 96 minutes.
For more, including production photos, see the Official Andrea King Web Site.
THE MAN I LOVE has been released on VHS. Vote here for it to be released on DVD.
This movie can also be seen on Turner Classic Movies, where it recently aired as part of Ida Lupino Month.
The trailer can be seen here.
THE MAN I LOVE might be called hokum, but it's hokum of the first order, and you won't be able to stop watching. It provides a delicious evening's entertainment, with the music lingering in one's mind long after the end credits have rolled.
July 2009 Update: THE MAN I LOVE is now available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.