MANPOWER (1941) 

Edward G. Robinson
Marlene Dietrich
George Raft
Alan Hale
Frank McHugh
Eve Arden
Barton MacLane
Ward Bond
Walter Catlett
Joyce Compton

Raoul Walsh



Time: 103 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Romance

SYNOPSIS: Two power company workers try to stay alive on the job while vying for the affections of a lounge singer in their off hours.

BOTTOM LINE: Edward G. Robinson gets more than he bargains for when he falls under the spell of the dark and damaged Dietrich in this plodding romance that fails, despite it's star power, to capture the heart or stir the imagination. There's nothing at all unique about this playboy meets bad girl tale except for the backdrop, which brings us into the dangerous world of power line workers. While electricity helps make the world go round, watching men repair damaged wires and junction boxes, fails to stimulate ones romantic juices. It's not hard to understand why Dietrich would give up her comfortable marriage to the gang foreman for life on the stage, no matter how sleazy the dive.

Robinson's character Hank believes he can save her and that she will come to love him as much as he loves her once they get married. His best friend Johnny, played by George Raft, knows better. Dames like Dietrich only cause pain and heartache, which she ends up bringing all of them in spades. It's not really her fault. She was honest with Hank about her feelings (she's not in love with him) from the beginning and tried to escape before she broke his heart, but Johnny's sense of duty and friendship forces her hand and ruins them all.

If there was any heat smoldering between these characters one could overlook the obvious path the film takes from start to finish. The sequences where the men endanger their lives to get the power back on are exciting and realistic, yet seem out of place in a film about unrequited love. As it stands, even Dietrich's enigmatic presence isn't enough to make the journey worthwhile. In this case, zippy dialogue and star power just aren't enough to conquer the triteness of a well-worn plot and characters the leads have played better elsewhere.

"You know, Smiley, there's one grand consolation about working in this dump. You can't get any lower."

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