Manpower was Warner Bros' latest reworking of 1932's Tiger Shark, with power-company linemen substituting for tuna fisherman. While repair some downed lines in a heavy thunderstorm, Hank McHenry (Edward G. Robinson) saves the life of his best pal Johnny Marshall (George Raft). While Johnny emerges from the experience unscathed, Hank is permanently crippled. He takes this misfortune in stride, but Johnny vows to look after Hank's best interests for the rest of their lives. When Hank marries blowzy nightclub hostess Fay Duval (Marlene Dietrich), Johnny is disdainful, convinced that Fay is playing Hank for a sucker. While recuperating in Hank's home after a slight injury, Johnny confesses to Fay that he's in love with her, a feeling that turns out to be mutual. Out of loyalty to Hank, Johnny refuses to have anything to do with Fay, who finally decides to leave town rather than break up the men's friendship. But Fay cannot stay away from Johnny, forcing him to confront the ever-trusting Hank with the truth, leading inexorably to the film's violent conclusion on a precariously high utility pole. A few comic interludes aside, Manpower is virile, gutsy entertainment; the fact that Edward G. Robinson and George Raft did not get along at all during shooting-resulting in a well-publicized on-set fistfight-only adds to the film's crackling tension.
by Hal Erickson synopsis