A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Marty (Delbert Mann, 1955)

It's been quite a few years since I last saw Marty and I had forgotten how engaging a movie it is. The credit largely belongs to Ernest Borgnine in the title role and Betsy Blair as Clara, touching in their vulnerability and remarkable low-key chemistry together. And of course there's Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay, which brings them together convincingly and keeps them apart smartly. I do have to object to Chayefsky's overdoing of the "what do you wanna do tonight" shtick, which kept contemporary comedians busy far too long, and to the self-pitying Italian mama stereotypes of Marty's mother, Mrs. Piletti (Esther Minciotti), and Aunt Catherine (Augusta Ciolli), but it's on the whole a well-made script. Some credit is obviously due to the director, Delbert Mann, who also directed Chayefsky's 1953 teleplay on which the movie is based. It was his big-screen debut and won him an Oscar, but he never followed up with another comparable film -- his best later work was probably on two Doris Day comedies, Lover Come Back (1961) and That Touch of Mink (1962). Oscars also went to Borgnine, Chayefsky, and the film itself, and nominations to Blair, Joe Mantell as Marty's pal Angie, Joseph LaShelle's wonderfully atmospheric cinematography, and to the art directors. In fact, if Marty has any lasting claim to fame other than being a satisfying romantic drama, it's in the Academy's uncharacteristic recognition of a "little" film -- especially noticeable in the mid-50s when the prevailing Hollywood trend was to "give 'em something they can't get on television." Since they had already gotten Marty on TV two years earlier, the Oscar attention was especially surprising. It didn't signal any sort of trend, however: The following year, the best picture winner was Around the World in 80 Days (Michael Anderson), a typically bloated extravaganza loaded with movie-star cameos, and for the first time, all of the best picture nominees for 1956 were filmed in color. It was as if the Academy had said, "Fine, we did our duty, now let's get back to business."

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