If “Marty” is an example of the type of material that can be gleaned, then studio story editors better spend more time at home looking at television. Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s one-shot Television Playhouse (NBC-TV) tele-play, and screenplayed by the author, “Marty” has been fashioned into a sock picture. It’s a warm, human, sometimes sentimental and an enjoyable experience.
“Marty” will further point up importance of the video showcase. Several Broadway plays have derived from that source. Warner Bros. had a b.o. click in the film version of Jack Webb’s tv “Dragnet” and a number of film producers are currently readying film treatments of other video entries, both series and one-shots.
“Marty” is offbeat in theme and lack of big Hollywood names will require selling both by the distributor and the theatre. But it should rack up runs in specialized houses in big cities. Word-of-mouth will bring ’em in general situations, if exhibitors give the picture the ride it deserves.
Like “On the Waterfront,” it demonstrates that story, performance, and direction always count. Neither color nor new projection and sound techniques could make “Marty” any better than it is now. Although filmed on a modest budget (reportedly about $300,000), there is no evidence of any stinting in the production values, a factor the industry will note.
Despite the picture’s north Bronx locale and concern with an Italian-American family, the theme is universal and many viewers may experience a degree of identification. It’s a quiet, simple story. While lacking in general excitement, it’s sparked with sufficient comedy.
Basically, it’s the story of a boy and girl, both of whom consider themselves misfits in that they are unable to attract members of the opposite sex. The boy, sensitively played by Ernest Borgnine, is a friendly, mild-mannered guy in his thirties who feels he hasn’t the handsomeness or the necessary savoire faire to impress girls. He is constantly needled by his mother, with whom he lives, and the customers at the butcher store where he works, to get married.
The girl, beautifully played by Betsy Blair, is a plain schoolteacher whom everybody is always trying to fix up with dates. Pair come together at a boy-meets-girl dance where Miss Blair is ditched by her blind date. A blossoming romance brings both out of their shells as each is able to pour out pent-up emotions to the other.
Borgnine, remembered as the sadistic sergeant in “From Here to Eternity” and the brutal heavy in “Bad Day at Black Rock,” does a complete switch in his portrayal of Marty and comes through with a performance that will be recalled next time thespian awards are distributed. Miss Blair is equally impressive in her finely etched delineation of the sensitive schoolteacher.
In the selection of Esther Minciotti, as Marty’s mother who first urges marriage and the opposes it for fear of being left alone, and Augusta Ciolli as his aunt who is the unwanted mother-in-law in her son’s household, Hecht-Lancaster have come up with a pair of veteran Italo-American thesps who breathe realism into their roles. Joe Mantell, as the buddy who talks down Marty’s girl to protect his own impending loneliness, contributes another gem to the topnotch dramatics. Frank Sutton, Walter Kelley, and Robin Morse are excellent as neighborhood pals who talk about conquests and likely prospects for dates. Jerry Paris and Karen Steele score as a bickering husband-and-wife faced with a mother-in-law problem.
Chayefsky has caught the full flavor of bachelor existence in a Bronx Italian neighborhood. The meetings at a bar and grill, the stag-attended dances, the discussions about girls and “what do we do tonight?” poser ring with authenticity. The film has sociological implications, but it’s presented in an easy to take manner.
Delbert Mann, who directed the teleplay, dittoed on the film and deserves a large share of the credit for its overall excellence. All technical aspects are first-rate.
1955: Best Motion Picture (Harold Hecht, Producer), Actor (Ernest Borgnine), Directing (Delbert Mann), Writing (Screenplay) Paddy Chayefsky
Nominations: Actor is a Supporting Role (Joe Mantell), Actress in a Supporting Role (Betsy Blair), Art Direction (Black-and-White) — Art Direction: Edward S. Haworth, Walter Simonds; Set Decoration: Robert Priestley, Cinematography (Black-and-White) Joseph LaShelle