Olive Films restores this film to its full length glory for Blu-ray
Horse racing was once a major pastime in America, one of the most popular sports in the country. That’s My Man was director Frank Borzage’s second film for Republic Pictures, after the successful I’ve Always Loved You. The 1947 film follows the fortunes of a bookkeeper that yearns to own a racehorse. The bookkeeper’s dreams come true when he raises a young colt named Gallant Man. While the horse becomes an undefeated champion, the man becomes sidetracked by gambling problems that threaten to destroy his family. Fully restored here to its original 99-minute length after decades of questionable edits, That’s My Man starts out strong but stumbles around the last turn.
A man, a woman, and a horse all meet inside a cab. What sounds like a bad joke turns into the screwball opening for That’s My Man. It is a somewhat misleading opening for a film filled with the anguish of a bad marriage. Don Ameche smoothly plays Joe Grange, a man looking to leave his current life behind so he can nurture Gallant Man into a champion race horse. Caught in the rain, Joe has managed to fit the horse into the cab of a friendly driver played by Roscoe Karns. Joe is desperate to find a place for Gallant Man to spend the night, having been kicked out of his own place. By sheer coincidence, he meets Ronnie (Catherine McLeod). The two have instant chemistry despite Joe’s insane request to stow Gallant Man inside Ronnie’s city apartment. Love is in the air as they eventually get married.
That’s My Man would not work if the romance between Joe and Ronnie wasn’t believable. Catherine McLeod plays the demure housewife hoping against hope that Joe will change his ways for her. It tries to be a tearjerker at times with its melodramatic developments, though it never really goes for the jugular. Don Ameche is excellent in an understated way as the smooth-talking Joe, an unlikable character with a degenerate gambling problem. Joe misses the birth of his son for his first love, poker. Joe says all the right things to Ronnie as he woos her, but you can tell he is going to break her heart again.
No one but Joe had believed in Gallant Man’s talent The determined bookkeeper becomes a successful trainer when the horse goes undefeated. One thing this film gets right is the authentic feel of the racing from its period, down to the gambling industry which has always surrounded it. You would think that Joe has it all and would be content with a beautiful wife in Ronnie and owning a legendary horse that has made him rich. Sadly, Joe turns more and more to gambling as he neglects his wife and growing family. He admits at one point that family life may not be for him.
Things come to a head when the handicappers want to add more weight to Gallant Man, forcing Joe to prematurely retire the now legendary horse. Joe and his horse are so closely identified with one another that it feels like Joe is being put out to pasture as well.
That’s My Man is an interesting piece of film history, a decent movie from noted director Frank Borzage. One can kind of understand why it didn’t become a hit, the movie violates several rules for any good Hollywood script. The horse racing aspect was likely a crowd-pleaser in its day but the focus on Joe’s domestic problems made it an atypical romance for Hollywood’s audiences in 1947. Featuring a handful of strong performances and fairly authentic racing action, it almost plays out as a morality tale about the dangers of gambling on family life. It never quite develops in a proper manner. and the script feels like one-part screwball comedy, two-parts bittersweet romance.
Olive Films delivers That’s My Man in a perfectly serviceable Blu-ray presentation. The distributor has dug deep into Paramount’s vaults for this black-and-white film from 1947. Press material indicates the film transfer was mastered from “archival film elements.” It sports decent grain reproduction and preserves the intended 1.37 aspect ratio with film-like authenticity, though there are the occasional rough spots.
This is not a pristine negative free of gate scratches and nicks. Some of the speckling gets rather obnoxious in a handful of scenes. The archival film elements are largely unrestored, including a handful of scenes in fairly poor condition. The rest of the transfer is rather decent with fine clarity and a steady contrast. Some minor fluctuations in the black levels lead to early crushing, limiting shadow delineation.
Most interesting about this disc is that it restores That’s My Man to its original length of 99 minutes. A much shorter version has circulated for decades. This is not an award-winning presentation by Olive Films but one that should satisfy interested film-lovers.
It’s amazing this unheralded vintage film has seen the light of day on Blu-ray, Olive continues to rescue neglected films from Hollywood’s golden age. There are no technical deficiencies with the 1080P presentation, following their standard practices with a competent AVC video encode that does not interfere with the film’s fidelity.
That’s My Man was recorded in the RCA Sound System, common for a Republic Pictures’ film of the era. If the extant film elements have some wear and tear on them, the surviving audio elements are in fantastic condition. The soundtrack is presented in a startlingly clean, well-mastered 2.0 DTS-HD MA presentation. The dated audio recording belies none of its age, perfectly preserving the fine score by Hans J. Salter with inimitable grace and depth. Dialogue is crisp and smoothly placed in the mix, possessing no obvious signs of compression. This audio makes for a perfect musical accompaniment in vivid audio clarity and fidelity.
Olive Films continues its practice of including no subtitle options on its Blu-rays.
Olive Films rarely includes special features on less popular movies and this disc is no exception with zero bonus content. They provide the BD-25 in a solid Amaray case, including a small flyer advertising their other Blu-ray releases and mailing list. The independent distributor does include tasteful art on the disc itself.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.