Monday, September 1, 2014

Movie Review - Marty

Here's a pretty good movie from long ago, 1955's "Marty" staring Ernest Borgnine.  We watched it last week on the Turner Classic Movie channel.

Marty is a 34-year-old bachelor, still living with his mother, who works at a butcher shop. His mother and pretty much every old Italian lady that comes into the shop are always on Marty to get married. But Marty knows he isn't much of a catch and is pretty much resigned to being what he is, a butcher. He has some hope of buying the shop from the owner and setting up in business for himself.

On Friday nights he sits around with his buddies at the local taproom, wondering what to do and how they are going to meet girls. One night, Marty and his best pal, Angie (Joe Mantell) go to the neighbor dance hall, hoping to get lucky. A complete stranger walks up to Marty and offers him $5 if he'll dance with the blind date he's trying to ditch. Marty refuses but watches as the guy convinces another guy to do it. But when the other guy meets the girl, he refuses to dance with her and pockets the $5 too. Marty sees that the girl is upset and goes over to her and asks her to dance,

Clara (Betty Blair) isn't the best looking girl in the place but she and Marty hit it off. They leave the hall, walk around, stop for coffee, and just talk and talk. Marty takes him back to his mother's house to get some cigarets and finds his mother out. They talk some more and Clara says she should be getting home. Marty tries to kiss her but she refuses. He's upset but she tells him she'd like to see him again and he takes her home.

That's pretty much the plot. Borgnine and Blair are great. He talks and talks and just can't believe he's met a girl that will listen to him. Blair, mostly listens, but listens actively, smiling and asking him questions about himself. They have some real chemistry. There's some drama the next day, when Marty, under the influence of his Mother, his brother-in-law and his friends doesn't call her like he said he would. But he finally comes to his senses and calls.

The movie won a bunch of awards, including Oscars for Best picture, Best Actor (Borgnine), Best Director (Delbert Mann) and Best Screenplay (Paddy Chayefsky).

Nobody would make a movie like this today. It's a quite character study with good acting and really no action. No fist fly, no car chases, really no excitement except what is generated by Marty and Clara's relationship.

It was also interesting to watch from the perspective of nearly 60 years away. The movie was shot in black and white. It takes place in a world that sort of looks modern but the plot relies on the time it was made. How much different the story would have had to be if there were smartphones, FaceBook, and no dance halls to meet in.

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