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Marty Movie Review

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Marty gave the little independent film stature and prestige at a time when the motion picture industry was trying to be BIG in order to attract the millions who were enjoying entertainment on the small screen. Marty also stunned movie studio executives with the realization that what people were watching on television for free could be every bit as good as or better than lavish films with high-priced stars like Love Is a Many Splendored Thing, Mister Roberts, Picnic, and The Rose Tattoo. Marty first appeared as a television drama on the May 24, 1953, broadcast of NBC's Kraft Theatre, starring 28-year-old Rod Steiger in the title role and Nancy Marchand, then 25, as his wallflower date Clara. For the movie version also directed by Delbert Mann, Ernest Borgnine, 38, played Marty and Betsy Blair, 32, was Clara. Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay of his original teleplay so infiltrated the consciousness of 1950s audiences that its influence continues to be felt many decades later. Leading men prior to Marty knew what they wanted to do; they didn't have trouble getting dates and they didn't look like Ernest Borgnine. But indecision and insecurity are intrinsic to real life and when Chayefsky tapped into that, the audience identification with Marty was pervasive. Lonely, middle-aged men recognized and understood Marty and felt validated by him. Although Chayefsky's portrait of Clara is harsher in many ways, it does show that a woman doesn't have to be movie-star pretty to find love and happiness. Clara is seen in isolation; all we know about her is that she's a school-teacher who's been rejected by a blind date. We learn about her goodness and kindness as she blossoms through Marty's sympathetic attention. We know more about Marty's world—about his mother, his aunt, his brother, his sister-in-law, and most of all, his friends, Angie, Ralph, The Kid, and Joe. ("What do you feel like doing tonight?” “I don't know. What do you feel like doing?") Divided, they might have a chance at a real life, but united they are losers with a capital “L.” In their world, nothing worth having is here, it has to be somewhere else, but they haven't a clue where that might be. For Marty to break away from these guys is difficult—they're all he knows, but his leap of courage is accomplished in a poignant, bittersweet way, considerably enhanced by Borgnine's kind eyes and his big, homely face. Pioneer indie producers Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster made Marty for $343,000, only to strike gold with the Academy voters. With its unfussy presentation and simple truths, Marty had touched everyone's heart.

1955 91m/B Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Joe Mantell, Esther Minciotti, Jerry Paris, Karen Steele, Augusta Ciolli, Frank Sutton, Walter Kelley, Robin Morse; D: Delbert Mann; W: Paddy Chayefsky; C: Joseph LaShelle; M: Roy Webb, Harry Warren. Academy Awards ‘55: Best Actor (Borgnine), Best Director (Mann), Best Picture, Best Screenplay; British Academy Awards ‘55: Best Actor (Borgnine), Best Actress (Blair); Directors Guild of America Awards ‘55: Best Director (Mann); Golden Globe Awards ‘56: Best Actor—Drama (Borgnine); National Board of Review Awards ‘55: Best Actor (Borgnine), National Film Registry ‘94;; New York Film Critics Awards ‘55: Best Actor (Borgnine), Best Film; Nominations: Academy Awards ‘55: Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (B & W), Best Black and White Cinematography, Best Supporting Actor (Mantell), Best Supporting Actress (Blair). VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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