Marty (1955) – Ticklish Affairs | Pretty Reel

Marty (Ernest Borgnine) is a single butcher living in the Bronx with his mother, Theresa (Esther Minciotti). He meets and falls in love with a simple schoolteacher, Clara (Betsy Blair), much to the disappointment of his friends and family.

The film won Best Picture, Best Actor for Borgnine, Best Director for Delbert Mann (his first film!) and Best Screenplay for Paddy Chayefsky. It is also the fourth American film to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Grace Kelly presents Ernest Borgnine with his Best Actor award at the 28th Annual Academy Awards.

I liked the first 20 minutes or so of the film, when Marty is still very shy and unsure of his place in the world. We see him working at his job and interacting with his mom and best friend Angie (Joe Mantell), and it all feels very natural. Marty feels lost and stuck in his monotonous life; as it wanders around New York, it feels very immersive as the audience sees real places in the Bronx. This makes Marty look even smaller, among the crowds and looming buildings. I like that they chose to film on real locations because that wasn’t very common in old Hollywood movies. I watched this on the Blu-Ray version, and it looks great – the black and white is very crisp and looks slightly modern.

Marty and Angie go to the Stardust Ballroom to try picking up girls, though Marty doesn’t have much success. You can really feel his painful clumsiness in this scene, something very relatable. Borgnine’s performance, while not my favorite, is good and it was interesting to see him play a more down to earth character. He naturally embodies Marty, bringing all of his weird quirks to life.

Marty finally meets Clara, who has come to dance with a bad date who abandons him for another girl. Marty and Clara end up spending the whole night together, dancing and talking for hours.

Sometimes I think of myself as a hopeless romantic and other times I’m very cynical about love. Marty made me feel more like the latter, which probably wasn’t the angle he was aiming for. It reminded me a bit of Before Sunrise, another romance movie set over a 24-hour period, based mostly on the interactions between the two main characters. However, with Marty, I didn’t like or connect enough with the characters to really care about their relationship. It was very rushed and unnatural.

Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair

The acting was stiff and awkward, which resulted in little to no chemistry between Borgnine and Blair. Maybe it didn’t help that we only really learn that Marty, Clara is kind of just there as someone to bounce the dialogue off of.

In fact, most of the female characters in this movie are portrayed as ugly, boring, or just plain stupid. Clara is constantly called a “dog”, even to her face by Marty himself. Instead of the film criticizing the way men treat and talk about women as if they were objects or things to be ogled, the film itself does. There’s a difference between showing the characters to be misogynistic and the filmmakers doing it. For me, it happened while the director and the writer were reaching out to women for some reason.

Marty is a pretty nice guy who seems to respect women until Clara spares him a kiss at one point during their date. He bursts into a fit of rage, upset that she rejected his advances. It’s kind of a turning point in the film; we see that maybe Marty isn’t exactly a great guy. He continues to sit idly by while his mother and friends continually harass his girlfriend, and he even considers breaking up with Clara just because they hate her so much.

I understand that Marty has very low self-esteem and is used to people telling him what to do, but he takes that anger out on Clara – a woman he just met. It also feels like we’re supposed to like Marty because he does the bare minimum and isn’t a real jerk, like his friends. That’s not really reason enough for her character and Clara to be together.

The film also has a subplot of Marty’s aunt Catherine (Augusta Ciolli) moving in with him and his mother because she annoys her son (Jerry Paris) and wife (Karen Steele), who have their own dating issues. wedding. Marty was based on a 1953 live-action television production of the same name, and this part of the story was added for the movie only. That’s definitely how I feel. It’s kind of pointless and doesn’t add much to the story, aside from another way of hating female characters.

Esther Minciotti, Karen Steele and Jerry Paris in an early scene from Marty.

Despite the movie being only 90 minutes long, it drags on long into the second half and didn’t catch my attention after Marty and Clara’s date. The story was so disjointed and the characters were uneven in their philosophies and personalities. We don’t even learn much about Clara, and it seems like we have to believe that she and Marty are kindred spirits.

However, Roy Webb’s score is nice and fits the mood of the film very well. It’s romantic yet slightly melancholy, and never distracts from what’s happening onscreen.

When the film opened in the summer of 1955, it did extremely well with critics and audiences. I can see why people may have liked it back then, but most of the elements don’t hold up today, especially the gender roles and some of the dialogue.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

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Marty (1955) – Ticklish Affairs | Pretty Reel