Marty (1955)

“Listen, Ange: I’ve been looking for a girl every Saturday night of my life. I’m thirty-four years old — I’m just tired of looking, that’s all.”

Marty Poster

Synopsis:
A 34-year-old butcher (Ernest Borgnine) living with his mother (Esther Minciotti) meets a mousy schoolteacher (Betsy Blair) at a dance, and must decide whether she’s a “dog” like his best friend (Joe Mantell) insists, or a potential marriage partner.

Genres:

Review:
Peary doesn’t appear to be a big fan of this Oscar-winning character study, which he refers to in his Alternate Oscars as “disappointingly static and uninvolving”, merely a “relic of its time”. He points out that 1955 saw many other worthy “best film” contenders — including Night of the Hunter, Rebel Without a Cause, and Kiss Me Deadly — and argues that “not many of us would answer that we want to watch Marty” when asked the film’s classic line, “What do you feel like doing tonight?”

I wholeheartedly disagree. Despite its teleplay origins, Marty remains a well-acted, finely scripted film — and I find it difficult to believe that most viewers would find Marty’s travails “uninvolving”. While the societal pressure to get married and have children may not be quite as strong today as it was in the 1950s, the urge to find one’s soulmate and build a life together is certainly just as relevant — and who among us can’t relate to feeling hopeless in romance at least once?

If the film has a fault — and it’s a minor one — it may be in the casting of Betsy Blair (“Mrs. Gene Kelly”) as an unattractive “dog” of a woman; yet Blair transcends this limitation through her performance, managing to project “wallflower” simply through her posture and expression. She and Borgnine make a most appealing romantic couple, one we can’t help rooting for.

P.S. Marty holds additional historical significance as the first film based directly on a television drama; Rod Steiger played the title character in the original production.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Ernest Borgnine as Marty
    Marty Borgnine
  • Betsy Blair as Clara
    Marty Blair
  • Esther Minciotti as Marty’s mom
  • Paddy Chayefsky’s touching script

Must See?
Yes; whether or not it’s a personal favorite, all film fanatics should see Marty at least once.

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

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One Response to “Marty (1955)”

  1. Agreed; ‘Marty’ is a must-see.

    First and foremost for Borgnine. Even though the film is well-acted all-round, it does belong to Ernie. His seemingly effortless work here is so detailed and it’s one performance that I’m actually thrilled has a firm place in Oscar-winning history. Note the very moving scene early on, in which Marty calls a girl for a date – someone he doesn’t even want to date, and who eventually turns him down. He has only called her to make other people happy (!) – something he spends so much time doing that he hasn’t much skill when it comes to making himself happy.

    Which makes a scene much later on all the more touching: when he’s out having coffee with Betsy Blair right after they’ve met. In one section of that scene, we don’t even hear what they’re saying, but we see Marty laughing and enjoying himself like never before. At that moment, we couldn’t be happier for him.

    [Sidebar re: my second favorite performance…which, oddly, is by Augusta Ciolli as Aunt Catherine; a rather unsympathetic role, which Ciolli handles cleverly, even managing some hilarity for the viewer – esp. when she goes on about all the people she knows that have died.]

    The next reason to see ‘Marty’ is for Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay. Chayefsky is in a circle of writers who write the way people really talk! This is evident in just about all of his work, but very much in evidence here. (The next year, Borgnine and Chayefsky would re-team for ‘The Catered Affair’. Although Gore Vidal adapted Chayefsky’s play, Chayefsky remains very present. And, sadly, it’s a title Peary overlooked.)

    The third main reason to see ‘Marty’ is…well, it’s just a damn good movie!

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