“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.”
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, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Betsy Blair Films
- Character Studies
- Ernest Borgnine Films
- Grown Children
- Looking for Ms./Mr. Right
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 The 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.
Note: 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
- Betsy Blair as Clara
- Esther Minciotti as Marty’s mom
- Paddy Chayefsky’s touching script
Yes; whether or not it’s a personal favorite, all film fanatics should see Marty at least once.
- Historically Relevant
- Noteworthy Performance(s)
- Oscar Winner or Nominee
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)