My Man and I
Cast & Crew
William A. Wellman
Chu Chu Ramírez, an itinerant Mexican farm laborer, is proud of his new American citizenship and treasures a letter he received from the President in response to one Chu Chu wrote to him. While Chu Chu's cousin, Manuel Ramírez, and friends, Celestino Garcia and Willie Chung, spend their last pay from the California grape season on gambling and women, Chu Chu, determined to improve his situation, buys clothes and an encyclopedia. Soon an employment agency arranges an interview for him with farmer Ansel Ames and his wife Elena. Although Mrs. Ames regards Chu Chu as "another foreigner," Ames gives him a month's work clearing land. After a week, Mrs. Ames, who no longer loves her husband, shows interest in the virile, young Chu Chu. When she apologizes to him for her remark about him being another foreigner, she explains that she does not like having "a dirty rag head or a chink around," to which Chu Chu adds, "or a greaser like Chu Chu Ramírez." Mrs. Ames states that she did not mean to imply a dislike for him but tells him that he has one thing in common with all Mexicans, "he sure can look mean." One night, Chu Chu dresses up and goes to a bar in town and meets Nancy, who has come north from Sacramento looking for a job. Chu Chu helps get her car started and drives her back to Sacramento, where he puts up his letter from the President as collateral for some cash which he then gives to Nancy. One night, just before Chu Chu is due to finish his job, Mrs. Ames tries to seduce him but he sends her away. Later, in Sacramento, when Chu Chu goes to cash his pay check, the bank refuses payment. Chu Chu again encounters Nancy, who, intoxicated, speaks of her marriage to a test pilot who was killed in a crash. He takes her back to the cheap motel in which she is living, and although she tells him he should not waste his time on a "wino," he asks her to be his girl. When Chu Chu tells Ames that his check is no good, Ames accuses him of trespassing and threatens him with a shotgun. Chu Chu then brings Ames before a labor conciliation board and is promised his pay within sixty days. After the judgment, Nancy tells Chu Chu that she is leaving Sacramento for Los Angeles, but he says he will follow, bring her back and marry her. Two months later, when Chu Chu goes to the Ames farm to get his pay, Ames tries to attack him, but Chu Chu knocks him down. After Chu Chu leaves, Mrs. Ames tells her husband that Chu Chu is worth ten of him. Ames hits her, and when he pushes her against a shotgun rack, one gun falls and shoots him in the shoulder. Meanwhile, Chu Chu learns that Nancy is sick in Los Angeles and prepares to go to her, but is arrested for shooting Ames. After Manuel visits Chu Chu in jail and tells him that Nancy has attempted suicide by gassing herself, Chu Chu escapes, and although handcuffed, jumps on a freight train and breaks the handcuffs on one of the train's wheels. He finds Nancy quite ill, working in a dance hall, and while they are dancing he is arrested by plainclothesmen who have staked out the hall. At his trial, both Mr. and Mrs. Ames testifies that Chu Chu shot Ames, while Chu Chu's friends speak on his behalf. The jury finds that Chu Chu did assault Ames with a deadly weapon, but requests a light sentence due to the provocation he endured. Before he is sentenced, Chu Chu asks to read from another letter he has written to the President stating that as a convict he will no longer be a citizen, something that would be worse than death to him. Taking the jury's words and Chu Chu's letter into consideration, the judge sentences Chu Chu to a year and a day. Afterward, Chu Chu's friends begin to haunt the Ames farm in an attempt to pressure them into confessing the truth. When Nancy, still very ill, collapses at the farm after accusing Ames of destroying Chu Chu, Manuel and the others take her to a hospital. Mrs. Ames then tries to reconcile with her husband and says that they should get Chu Chu released from jail even though they will be charged with perjury. Realizing that they must now do the right thing, to save themselves as well as Chu Chu, they embrace, and their confession frees Chu Chu. When he visits Nancy in the hospital, she still wants him to forget her but he refuses to leave her and tells her she must get well for him. Finally, she agrees.
William A. Wellman
Pascual García Peña
James H. Harrison
María Teresa Lara
My Man and I
One reason for the film's success was the presence of quality talent at almost every level of production. After directing Schary's first big hit at MGM, Battleground (1949), director William A. Wellman had remained with the studio despite a string of disappointing projects. With the studio scaling back to more modest productions in the '50s, Wellman was often asked to take on low-budget films designed to fill out double-bill bookings. Biographers have wondered that he even accepted the assignment to direct My Man and I, but clearly there was something in the script that appealed to his humanitarianism and his interest in tales of survival, two elements prevalent in most of his films.
Originally titled A Letter From the President, the script had several soap opera elements in its tale of an immigrant who treasures the letter from the U.S. president that came with his citizenship papers. In particular, it featured a plot device as old as the book of Genesis, with Montalban being propositioned by the boss' wife (Claire Trevor), who creates legal problems for him when he rejects her. But by focusing on Montalban's dreams and the strong relationships among his fellow workers, Wellman brought the picture to life.
Montalban's performance was another plus. An award-winning screen star in his native Mexico, he had signed with MGM in the late '40s hoping to translate his success to the States. But instead he was consigned to mostly thankless roles taking advantage of his good looks, strong singing voice and dancing abilities. Wellman had helped him break the mold by casting him as the Mexican-American GI who had never seen snow before in Battleground, but aside from that, he seemed to get his best roles in low-budget films like Border Incident (1949), Right Cross (1950) and this picture. It would take a move into character roles later in the decade, particularly as the Kabuki star in Sayonara (1957) to reveal his full talents to a wider audience. Yet, Montalban would go on to win an even greater following with his over-the-top performance as interstellar criminal Khan Noonien Singh on the TV series Star Trek and in the film Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982).
For Montalban's leading ladies, MGM borrowed two actresses who had enjoyed recent brushes with Oscar®. Trevor was already a winner, for her performance as Edward G. Robinson's alcoholic moll in Key Largo (1948), while Shelley Winters, cast as the love interest, had just won her first nomination for the acclaimed drama A Place in the Sun (1951), whose Oscar®-winning cinematographer, William C. Mellor, was shooting this film as well. Among the supporting cast were perennial Western villain Jack Elam, also on screen that year as one of the gunmen in High Noon (1952), in a rare role as a Mexican, and George Chandler, a personal favorite of Wellman's.
For all the quality he brought to the film, however, Wellman was far from happy with the assignment. After handing the studio box office winners with Battleground and the low-budget fantasy The Next Voice You Hear (1950), he resented being consigned to lesser films while studio favorites like Vincente Minnelli, George Cukor, Charles Walters and Richard Thorpe got the top assignments. Moreover, he had been angered at the studio's recutting of his earlier Across the Wide Missouri and the bungled release of Westward the Women (both 1951). My Man and I finished his MGM contract, and though Schary offered him an impressive raise to re-sign, he decided to sign with John Wayne's production company instead. He brought with him a script he had already developed and originally planned to pitch at MGM, the aviation drama Island in the Sky (1953). It became their first hit together, followed by the even more successful The High and the Mighty (1954), which brought him a reunion with Trevor.
Producer: Stephen Ames
Director: William A. Wellman
Screenplay: John Fante, Jack Leonard
Cinematography: William C. Mellor
Music: David Buttolph
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons, James Basevi
Cast: Shelley Winters (Nancy), Ricardo Montalban (Chu Chu Ramirez), Wendell Corey (Ansel Ames), Claire Trevor (Mrs. Ansel Ames), Jack Elam (Celestino Garcia), George Chandler (Frankie).
BW-100m. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
My Man and I
This film's working titles were Shameless and Letter from the President. According to documents in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, producer Stephen Ames asked if it would be possible to present the principal character as being addicted to marijuana but was told that the PCA would not approve any stories that dealt with drug addiction. Hollywood Reporter news items reveal that Lana Turner was originally to portray "Nancy," and that Jean Hagen and Frank Silvera were at one time cast in "top roles" in the picture. The CBCS lists actors Tristram Coffin and Philip Van Zandt in the cast but their roles were eliminated before the film's release.
According to a October 15, 1951 pre-production news item, location shooting was to take place in Sacramento, Salinas, Monterey and downtown Los Angeles, CA, however, a Hollywood Reporter news item published during production indicated that the company had shot for five days in Calabasas, in Southern California, and no specific additional locations have been confirmed. Reviews indicate that the film was shot "in the San Joaquin Valley." The film's title is derived from the lyrics of the song "Stormy Weather," which is sung by Barbara Ames over the opening title cards.