The 1951 film, The Man With My Face, tells the story of Chick Graham (Barry Nelson).
Chick’s a nice guy. He might be a little bit bland but, at the same time, he’s also never been in any real trouble. He’s the type of person who you would trust to look after your money but, at the same time, you would probably also forget to wish him a happy birthday on Facebook. He’s just one of those decent but forgettable human beings.
After serving his country in World War II, Chick moved to Puerto Rico and opened up a business with his best friend from the army, Buster Cox (John Harvey). Not only that but he also married Buster’s sister, Cora (Lynn Ainley). Of course, when he fell in love with Cora, he also abandoned his then-girlfriend, Mary (Carole Mathews). Mary’s still a little bit upset about that but you know who is really bitter about it? Mary’s brother, Walt (Jack Warden). Walt says that Chick’s no good and there’s no way that he would ever help Chick out if Chick ever got in any trouble.
But no matter! Chick’s got a nice house. He’s got a loving wife. He’s got a loyal best friend. And he’s got a dog! It’s a perfect life!
Or is it?
One day, Chick is shocked when his wife doesn’t pick him up after dropping him off in the city. When she calls his house and asks her what’s going on, she replies that she doesn’t have the slightest idea who he is. When Chick finally makes it home, both Cora and Buster continue to insist that they don’t know who he is. His own dog doesn’t even seem to know him!
However, what’s really strange is that, in Chick’s house, there’s a man who looks exactly like him. Cora, Buster, and the man all claim that he’s the real Chick Graham and that the original Chick is just a double. Fleeing his house, Chick soon discovers that his picture is on the front page of every newspaper!
Except, of course, it’s not his picture. Instead, it’s a picture of Bert Rand! Bert is a notorious criminal who recently robbed a bank in Miami. It’s rumored that he’s fled to Puerto Rico! It doesn’t take long for Chick to figure out that Bert has stolen his identity and moved into his house. But how can Chick prove it? (Remember this film was made in 1951, back when most people didn’t even know what DNA was.) Making things even worse for Chick is that he now has a crazed dog handler (Jim Boles) and a doberman chasing him all over San Juan….
As far as stolen identity films are concerned, The Man With My Face isn’t bad, though it is kind of predictable. It’s not a spoiler to say that people are conspiring against Chick but, as you watch the film, you have to wonder why these criminals would pursue such a needlessly complicated scheme. You have to admire their dedication but, at the same time, it’s seems like they could have gotten the same results with a much simpler plan. On the plus side, Barry Nelson (who you might recognize as Mr. Ullman from Kubrick’s The Shining) is a sympathetic hero and character actor Jack Warden has a nice supporting role as Mary’s world weary brother. Though Puerto Rico may seem like a strange place to set a film noir, the film’s final chase scene makes good and atmospheric use of the Fort San Cristobal. All in all, The Man With My Face is an entertaining little time waster.