After getting out of a long relationship, singer Petey Brown decides to visit her two sisters and brother in Long Beach. On her arrival, Petey learns that her sister and brother are involved in various ways with Nicky Toresca, who runs one of the local nightclubs. In an effort to get involved, Petey lands a job at Nicky's nightclub, where Nicky relentlessly pursues her romantically. Avoiding Nicky's attempts, Petey falls in love with a downtrodden ex-jazz pianist, Sand Thomas, who has never been able to quite recover from his ugly divorce. Raoul Walsh's The Man I Love is a very dense narrative that features an alluring mixture of melodrama, film noir, and jazz. At the center of it all is Ida Lupino's Petey Brown, a no-nonsense, whip smart woman who is the driving force behind the narrative. Petey is one of the strongest female characters I've seen from a film of this era, being the primary person to inflict change in nearly all of the characters. While she is a beacon of strength among her family, the relationship she forms with Sand Thomas is where we see her own fragility. Raoul Walsh uses this relationship between Petey and Sand to further capture the idea that no one has life figured out, showing how even someone as strong and centered as Petey is still looking for answers. Raoul Walsh's The Man I Love unquestionably influenced Scorsese's New York, New York, being a sprawling but centered story about longing, romance, and life.
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