Manpower (1941)

Directed by Raoul Walsh

Storyline

Hank McHenry and Johnny Marshall work on a road crew for the power company. In a freak accident Hank is injured and is promoted to foreman of the gang. One night Hank and Johnny meet Fay Duval in a clip joint, but tensions start to show in the road crew as rivally between Hank and Johnny increases.

Tense Gentlemen on the High Tension Wires

5/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
16 December 2005

Edward G. Robinson and George Raft are a couple of linemen. Robinson is the foreman of the crew and a bit of a lug when it comes to the opposite sex. Raft however is a smooth operator.

They both meet Marlene Dietrich at a clip joint, the Code euphemism for a bordello. Robinson falls for her and Dietrich’s looking for a way out of the working life. They marry, but she starts getting a yen for Raft and that brings on trouble.

Manpower has a place in film history having nothing to do with the content or the quality of the movie. While visiting his good buddy George Raft on the set, one Benjamin Siegel was introduced to Virginia Hill as depicted in the film Bugsy. There’s a scene where Raft gets into a brawl with Barton MacLane that is depicted in Bugsy.

And if that wasn’t enough, Raft and Robinson got into a real brawl over Marlene just like in the film. It seems as though Dietrich was involved with Raft during the production. But Raft was not the most educated of men.

Edward G. Robinson came from a slum background like Raft, but he’d educated himself and in fact was a well known art collector. Dietrich was no dummy herself and she and Eddie got friendly on the set, talking about stuff that Raft didn’t have a clue about. Of course this got George jealous and they had a knock down drag out over her. You couldn’t buy that kind of publicity. Lucky for Robinson Raft didn’t call on Ben Siegel for his services.

So Manpower entered its place in Hollywood lore. Too bad the film wasn’t any great masterpiece. It’s entertaining enough though with a good cast of Warner Brothers regulars supporting Ms. Dietrich and her gentlemen friends. It seems though just about every film Warners made back then had either Alan Hale or Frank McHugh in it, in this case both. They’re always entertaining. Add to that Eve Arden in her usual role as the wisecracking best friend of the heroine.

Not the greatest film ever made, but a historic one and not bad on the entertainment scale.

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Reception

Bosley Crowther wrote a positive review for the film, noting that the cast of the Warner Bros. film was outstanding. “With such exceptional material, the Warner blacksmiths couldn’t help but make good—good, in this sense—meaning the accomplishment of a tough, fast, exciting adventure film.” Channel 4’s review of the movie notes the exciting setting makes it worth seeing, but goes on to pan the film: “Directed with the usual efficiency by Walsh, Manpower’s weak script never manages to convince despite the setting and the strong cast

The film was a solid box office hit.

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B-picture quality from Raoul Walsh and his stock company cast…

5/10
Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
13 September 2007

Everything about MANPOWER is highly improbable, including the casting of EDWARD G. ROBINSON as a lineman in love with the alluring clip-joint hostess MARLENE DIETRICH and the three-way romance that includes GEORGE RAFT as a jealous blue collar onlooker who warns Robinson about the pitfalls of marrying Dietrich.

Raoul Walsh directs it in his customary boisterous style, letting ALAN HALE, FRANK McHUGH, WARD BOND and BARTON MacLANE overdo the rowdy blue collar supporting roles. The comic relief offered by Hale and McHugh is below par this time and becomes tiresome long before the tale reaches a climactic storm scene.

Fans of the star trio will probably overlook these faults and find the film passable viewing, but it’s nothing special and easily forgotten. EVE ARDEN gets to sling some one-liners in the kind of role she always played with verve and skill.

Linemen working on electrical wires at the height of a severe thunderstorm is stretching things a bit for the melodramatic climax.

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