Play It Again – Marty

Play It Again – Marty. By Jess Lomas.

Play It Again is a weekly feature in which classic-film connoisseur Jess Lomas revisits a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up … or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line (hey, whatever; it fits!).

“You remind me of Marty,” is not something you should tell your boyfriend after watching the 1955 film starring Ernest Borgnine. This is true especially when your boyfriend has not seen the film and you describe the lovable character Marty to him as, “an emotionally stunted butcher who still lives at home with his mother.”

Based on a teleplay, 34-year-old Marty is single and living with his mum, constantly being harassed as to when he’s going to get hitched. Clara (Betsy Blair) is a shy, plain-looking school teacher, similarly under duress to tie the knot and start a family. Both have resigned themselves to a lonely life until they meet each other and, despite the obstacles, realise they’re both worthy of love.

Winner of the Best Picture Oscar and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Marty also earned Borgnine a Best Actor Oscar, Paddy Chayefsky a Best Screenplay Oscar and Delbert Mann a Best Director Oscar. What makes Marty so worthy of the awards at the time, and why it is considered a classic today, is that it is a character study in its simplest form; two lonely people looking for and deserving love. The performances by Borgnine, Blair and Esther Minciotti (as Marty’s mother) are all solid and heart-warming.

It’s hard not to feel for Marty when he spouts lines like, “I’ve been looking for a girl every Saturday night of my life. I’m thirty-four years old. I’m just tired of looking, that’s all. I’d like to find a girl. Everybody’s always telling me, ‘Get married, get married, get married!’ Don’t you think I want to get married? I want to get married!” It makes the film’s resolution all the sweeter.

Made for only $340,000 and shot in black and white amidst a sea of colour Hollywood films, Marty went on to gross $5 million at the box office and be nominated for eight Academy Awards – not bad for a film about a butcher from the Bronx. Full of punchy dialogue and endearing characters, the film touches a nerve and deserves the title of a classic.

Discuss: Marty!

3 Responses to “Play It Again – Marty”

  1. I had never heard of this film – that’s pretty terrible, yes? It’s been added to my queue. I love this weekly feature.

    PS: & poor Guy, Jess you are so cruel. 😉

  2. Haha I am cruel Claire, he’ll think that even more when I finally sit him down to watch it 🙂

    Happy you added it to your queue, I had never heard of the film until I saw it about four years ago, which I thought was pretty bad considering it won so many Oscars, so don’t feel bad you hadn’t either!

  3. I too watched this movie just recently and on the urgent recommendation of a fellow classics fan. Man, what a small revelation of a film. I was quite quite surprised at the point at which it ended. I thought we’d go much much farther, like Household Saints.

    Also, Betsy Blair who was Gene Kelly’s first wife! What strange compelling nervous energy she has … quite fascinating.

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