Paddy Chayefsy’s MARTY is not really an overlooked movie I suppose, just one I hadn’t seen until recently. Heard a bit about it over the years, but never ran across it until Turner Classics ran it this weekend. Being an older, black-and-white film, more than likely it would be overlooked by viewing audiences today. No explosions, rattling gunfire, no sappy, romantic comedy with two grown people acting like adolescent teenagers. In short, a movie that might never get made today.
Just a story of two lonely people that find each other.
The original television broadcast starred Rod Steiger in the role of Marty, the butcher, and Nancy Marchand as school teacher Clara. In this film version, Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair fill the roles.
Marty is a thirty-four year old man and Clara a twenty-nine year old woman. Neither has a lot of self-esteem. Marty categorizes himself as a fat, ugly man and Clara is a bit of a plain jane. Marty’s five siblings, he’s the oldest, are all married and starting families. He still lives with mother, as does Clara with her parents. Both are socially awkward and have given up finding someone, resigning themselves to being single.
Marty has too many well-meaning friends and family, clueless, that hammer him about getting married(been there).
Then, on a Saturday night, his mother badgers him into going to the Stardust Ballroom and try to meet a girl. There’ he witness a young woman, Clara, being dumped by her blind date, after he turns down five bucks to take her home by the young doctor who thinks she’s a dog, and follows her outside where she’s crying. He asks her to dance and things click. They dance, go for a walk, and talk for hours over a cup of coffee.
They discuss prospects both are facing: he buying his boss’s meat market and she taking a job that will force her to leave her parents’ home and offer her better chances for promotion. Though neither realize it, they are taking advice from someone they’ve only known for a few hours.
We see a budding romance here.
Until friends and family get in the way. A busybody aunt puts ideas in Marty’s mother that causes her to talk down the first girl he ever brings home. His friends all make fun of him for hanging around with a “dog.”
And he almost listens to them.
The actors that played his mother, the busybody aunt, and his best friend had played the same role in the live television broadcast. Frank Sutton(of Gomer Pyle, USMC fame), Jerry Paris(director and Dick Van Dyke Show), and Jerry Orbach had small roles in the film.
A great film that the critics liked, though some didn’t think it would garner any Oscar nods, and was a box office success for the time. It ended up with eight nominations, winning four for film, actor(Borgnine), director(Delbert Mann), and screenplay(Chayefsky).
I’d always heard good things about this one, knew of the awards, but it was even better than I’d realized.