A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

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."