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All the hot gamblers are in town, and they're all depending on Nathan Detroit to set up this week's incarnation of "The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game in New York"; the only problem is, he needs $1000 to get the place. Throw in Sarah Brown, who's short on sinners at the mission she runs; Sky Masterson, who accepts Nathan's $1000 bet that he can't get Sarah Brown to go with him to Havana; Miss Adelaide, who wants Nathan to marry her; Police Lieutenant Brannigan, who always seems to appear at the wrong time; and the music/lyrics of Frank Loesser, and you've got quite a musical. Includes the songs: Fugue for Tinhorns, "Luck Be a Lady", "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat". Written by
Syam Gadde <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The tension between the two male leads, Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra, started right off. Brando approached Sinatra, asking for help with musical numbers and suggesting they get together often and work on them. Sinatra told him he did not go for "that Method crap," and refused. See more »
While Sky and Nathan are talking in the restaurant and Nathan is trying to get Sky to eat some cheese cake, a man walking in the street outside disappears and a woman walks past in his place. See more »
I'm intrigued by the strong sense of favour towards (or sympathy for!) Sinatra in the other reviews here. I've read elsewhere that Sinatra never seems to have forgiven anyone for *not* being cast as Sky Masterson.
OK, so who wouldn't want to be cast as Sky Masterson? it's a great part: the charismatic successful gambler who makes a grave mistake when he allows himself to be suckered into a bet, in which he must take Salvation Army Sargeant Sarah Brown on a date to Cuba, or lose. It's not the money it's the pride, but he and she meet their match. Meanwhile Nathan Detroit must juggle his long-suffering fiancée Adelaide with trying to find a spot for a craps game which will make him rich if it doesn't alienate his fiancée forever first.
The film started life as a series of short stories by Damon Runyon: that's his unique dialogue you hear, and those are his great character names, and that's his horse-racing/nightclub/late night gambling world. Then it became a musical, and you can't help but feel that in film form it never really left the stage. The camera is unusually static and the sets remarkably and not pleasingly flat and childlike. Fortunately the music is so great, I don't care that much.
My absolute favourite thing about this film, though, is the singing and acting of the two non-singers, Brando (as Sky) and Jean Simmons (as Sargeant Sarah Brown). Of course, putting pro singers into these roles would have produced better music; but what surely gets forgotten is that two such excellent actors brought something else to the party instead: what they lacked in vocal talent they more than made up for in gusto, acting ability, and pathos, pathos, pathos. You're with Sky as he argues with Sarah against reason, steadiness, pipes and safety. You enjoy Sarah's loosening up under the influence of Cuban "milk". You feel completely the suddenness and passion of their scene in the courtyard with bells ringing and an hour to go before the plane takes them home. As Sky rightly says, it's "chemistry". Pro singers be they Broadway belters or smooth crooners can't necessarily be relied on to make this happen. (And they certainly didn't.) I read somewhere that Brando criticised Sinatra for not putting all of himself into his role of Nathan Detroit. Sinatra in turn was infuriated by Brando's four-take acting method. As a Brando fan (does it show?!) I'm bound to take the other side, but I can't imagine that this film would have been the much-adored classic it is today if Brando and Simmons hadn't been in it with their wonderful chemistry; Brando's unpredictability; Simmons' face, all pink cheeks and brown hair, drunk and ashamed in a Cuban bar. Beautiful. I'll always want a copy of this film lying around in case I need to feel good again. You'll forgive me if give some of the Nathan (sleep)talking parts the 100% brush-off though, won't you? You won't? Oh, be quiet and have some more of Mindy's cheesecake!
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