Guys and Dolls (1955)

“I am not putting the knock on dolls. It’s just that they are something to have around only when they come in handy — like cough drops.”

Synopsis:
While trying to schedule an illegal craps game under the watchful eye of Lieutenant Brannigan (Robert Keith), Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) — eager to secure enough money to marry his longtime showgirl girlfriend (Vivian Blaine) — bets a womanizing gambler (Marlon Brando) that he won’t be able to convince a beautiful but prim missionary (Jean Simmons) to go on a date to Havana.

Genres:

Review:
Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed this colorful screen adaptation of Frank Loesser’s Broadway musical, adapted (by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows) from two Damon Runyon stories. Brando struggled to master his songs, and it shows, but Blaine (who starred in the original musical) is a treasure, and Sinatra — naturally — does just fine. Speaking of music, the tunes here (including “Fugue for Tinhorns”, “Adelaide’s Lament”, “Sue Me”, and “Luck Be a Lady”) are a toe-tapping bunch, neatly choreographed (by Michael Kidd) and fun to watch. I’m not a huge fan of the storyline itself, given my overall distaste for depictions of love-under-deception, but the tale takes some fine turns at crucial points, and it’s easy enough to simply get caught up in the stage-bound yet escapist air of this city-life fairytale.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Vivian Blaine as Adelaide
  • Many toe-tapping musical numbers
  • Colorful and creative sets
  • Michael Kidd’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, for the fun songs and overall infectious air.

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Guys and Dolls (1955)”

  1. A once-must, at least – as a fine example of a filmed version of a stage musical and for its place in cinema history. (I also like that the assessment given notes it for its ‘infectious air’. 😉 )

    As per my post in The ’40s-’50s in Film on facebook:

    “Take back your mink
    Take back your pearls
    What made you think
    that I was one of those girls…”

    ‘Guys and Dolls’ (1955) [streaming on FilmStruck]: Hadn’t seen this in years. This is the ultimate in old-fashioned Broadway musicals – but, overall, it holds up refreshingly well. Some of Frank Loesser’s score was cut but he was asked to write 3 new songs for the film. Some songs are real stand-outs: Vivian Blaine (who pretty much steals the film whenever she’s on-screen) singing ‘Adelaide’s Lament’, the Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando duet ‘I’ll Know’ (surprisingly, Simmons did her own vocals, as did Brando), Brando acquitting himself quite nicely with ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight’. Sinatra is in good voice here but I can’t say I’ve ever been fond of him as an actor. (Sinatra was not nice to Brando on-set, apparently, because he had wanted Brando’s role.) Another real plus is Michael Kidd’s choreography (which he originated on Broadway). Some may balk that the film now looks too stage-bound – if anything, director Joseph Mankiewicz played up the artifice, making no bones about it. It might have been nice if the pacing had been picked up in a few places but that’s a quibble. There’s still quite a bit to enjoy here.

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