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Have You Seen…? Episode 22

On this episode of Have You Seen…? David Hast and WGVU’s Scott Vander Werf talk about the 1947 film The Man I Love starring Ida Lupino and directed by Raoul Walsh. It’s a film noir that mixes family and jazz

David Hast: Scott, have you seen The Man I Love?

Scott Vander Werf: I have seen it, directed by Raoul Walsh in 1947.

DH: Yeah, it's not one of Raoul Walsh's better known films, but it is, it'll be an interesting one for us to talk about. We should probably remind people who Raoul Walsh was, they may not know the name, but he was a director of several very well-known Hollywood films. And he, he…It was often said about him that he was Hollywood. Raoul Walsh is Hollywood because he was a director who worked from 1914 all the way to 1964 from the early silent era, you know, before Birth of a Nation, which incidentally he worked on. He was on the crew of Birth of a Nation. He directed silent films. And then he went on to direct some really famous, you know, although he directed over a hundred films and most of them are not well known or well thought of today. Amongst those were some of the greatest Hollywood movies. He directed a couple of the great gangster films, The Roaring Twenties, which is my favorite of all of the gangster films, starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. A good one to see if you've never seen all those movies Humphrey Bogart did before he became a star, where he always played like the bad gangster, the second build gangster.

SVW: And this was in 1939.

DH: 1939. And it's a wonderful portrayal. In many ways thought of as the culmination of the gangster genre in 1939 until Raoul Walsh himself again came back in 1949 and made White Heat.

SVW: Which is a film I have seen. I have not seen The Roaring Twenties, unless I saw it 40, 50 years ago and just don't remember it. But White Heat has that iconic portrayal by James Cagney.

DH: Yeah, he plays a really psychotic gangster. At the end he's like... refinery is blowing up around him and he's standing there burning up shouting top of the world ma and he in some ways it just like put an exclamation point on the gangster genre and pretty much ended it until a new generation came along heavily influenced by Walsh and the other gangster films and made movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas the ones we know so well today.

SVW: And Raoul Walsh also directed They Drive by Night, 1940, Humphrey Bogart, George Raft, and Ida Lupino. And I have seen that, although it's sort of vague in my memory. Remind me of that film.

DH: They Drive by Night is about some truck drivers who get involved inadvertently in some criminal activity and Bogart's really great in it. Ida Lupino is always good and she was a favorite of Walsh. And this is Bogart on the verge of stardom. But stardom came for him the next year in a Raoul Walsh directed film. This is the movie that made Humphrey Bogart a star, High Sierra. In fact, in High Sierra, if you look at the billing at the beginning, the opening credits, Ida Lupino gets first billing, Bogart second. But after this movie, Bogart was always at the top of the credits. High Sierra is a wonderful, wonderful film. And one of the things I love about it when I look back at Walsh remade his own movie. We talked about Hitchcock remaking The Man Who Knew Too Much. Well, Raoul Walsh decided to remake this movie High Sierra about a gangster and the woman who loves him and tries to save him. He remade it in another genre as a western called Colorado Territory in 1949, which is also a terrific movie. Those are probably my two favorite Raoul Walsh films.

SVW: So where does The Man I Love fit in?

DH: I don't know where it fits in except that it does star Ida Lupino, who's an important person. You know, she's not in the top list of actresses, people who are a member from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but they should because not only was she a very good actress, but she became a director. She was one of just a couple of women who were directors as early as the 1940s. And her films that are directed are very interesting. And this particular film, The Man I Love, although it's directed by Walsh, was based on a novel written by a woman and the screenplays by a woman. And in many ways it fits that old-fashioned description as a woman's picture. It's somewhat melodramatic. It's about a woman. It's a family drama. It's about this singer trying to protect her brothers and sisters. But at the same time, it's a film noir and a crime movie. And it's a musical.

SVW: It's a great musical. There's some fantastic jazz performances and really kind of hones in unlike a lot of films at the time, which kind of, you know, more focused on what they called the sweet bands. And those were the sort of swing bands or swing ensembles that were very much melodic and, and avoiding the word jazz. And they actually use the word jazz in the movie.

DH: Yeah, it's not just a soundtrack, right? Scott, they don't usually in movies, they kind of fake it. But in this, they really show what I think are real bands.

SVW: They look like real bands and genuinely improvising off of great standards like The Man I Love.

DH: Yeah, and they even they have them talking about the music they're playing like, oh, try that in the second bar and stuff like that.

SVW: And the love interest is a sort of a intellectual jazz piano player who's who because of a lost love has left the music life and become a merchant marine.

DH: Right, and it turns out that he's this pianist that the Ida Lapino character, who's a singer, idolizes. And we get a lot of his music. He's playing all this Gershwin throughout the movie. And so here's this movie. It almost like it throws everything in there. It's a wonderful romance. It's a crime movie. And I love Ida Lapino in it because she's kind, she's feminine, she's protective of her family. but she is tough as nails. I mean,

SVW: she totally takes charge of every scene that she's in.

DH: Yeah. And there's one scene where this guy tries to kill the gangster and she stops him and she slaps him around. And it's not like the cliche, like a woman slapping a guy across the face. It's like, do you remember that scene?

SVW: I do. And let's talk about that because the gangster, a Nikki Tereska is played by Robert Alda and

DH: Alan Alda's father.

SVW: Oh, okay. All right. And the thing is, this was my perspective. This was a key scene, not only in terms of showing the P.D. Brown character played by Lupino asserting her control and also protecting her neighbor, who's the guy who's trying to kill the gangster. But the gangster is not really, this is the thing, I think it peels back the layer that there's a lot of people that are pretending in this movie in different ways of being gangsters. I don't think he's really a gangster. I think he's a wannabe gangster who happens to own a bunch of restaurants. He might be working in terms of low level crimes, but he's not really a cutthroat. He shows it that when that scene ends, you kind of, if you re you'll think back and remember throughout the movie, he's always sort of playing around.

DH: Yeah. He's he, I mean, he owns these nightclubs. So we think so. Yeah. I'm going to be this tough guy. But Ida Lupino shows him up for what he really is. When it comes down to actually having to be tough, he can't do it and she's the one that's tough.

SVW: And she's tough and she takes control of nearly every scene and looks at situations and realizes how she can help. When I say takes control, she's helping people, except when it comes to her own romance. It's with the man that she's fallen in love with where she's not in control.

DH: Yeah. This is a tough movie to find, unfortunately. I think the last time I checked, I couldn't find it streaming anywhere, but it was up in a nice print on YouTube. But if you can find it, The Man I Love is just a fun movie and very representative of the golden age of Hollywood.

SVW: Well, thanks for joining us, David.

DH: Thanks, Scott.

David Hast is a retired high school English teacher. He has an MFA in Radio/TV/Film from Northwestern University and worked 15 years in the film and video industry. Some years ago he taught video production part-time at GVSU, and as a high school teacher he regularly taught a course in Film and Media Analysis.
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