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Marty is a 34-year-old butcher whose Italian family is constantly after him to get married. He meets plain-looking schoolteacher Clara. They are both lonely, unglamorous people who have resigned themselves to their unloved lives. But they manage, in time, to grope their way to love. Written by
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Among other things Marty will be known for is being the best film Burt Lancaster ever produced without Burt Lancaster the actor. Hard to disagree with four Academy Awards credited to the film.
Originally a made for television drama that starred Rod Steiger in the title role, Marty piqued the interest of both Burt Lancaster and his producer partner Harold Hill. Rod Steiger had gotten very good reviews for his interpretation of the part of the thirty something Bronx butcher. However upon getting the film rights, Lancaster himself did not want to cast Steiger again because he felt no one would see the film again after seeing Steiger on free television. Lancaster also personally cast Ernest Borgnine in the lead after having worked with him on From Here to Eternity.
In 1955 Marty on television and the big screen struck a resonant cord with the American public. Something about the tale of the Bronx butcher longing anxiously for a life soul mate made it a universal theme about fear of loneliness. The plot such as it is has Marty going to the Stardust Ballroom and meeting plain jane school teacher Betsy Blair.
Marty has a lot going against the relationship. His erstwhile friends, as big a pack of losers ever created for the screen, don't want to lose one of their number. His mother, after listening to her sister, changes from pushing him out the door to meet new people, to strongly urging him to forget Betsy Blair. The conversation between the two women, Esther Minciotti as Borgnine's mother and Agusta Ciolli as his Aunt Katherine is a classic.
One of Marty's biggest boosters was columnist Walter Winchell. He plugged the film a lot in his column and was very instrumental in beating the publicity drums for Marty. Ironic since two years later, Burt Lancaster delivered a cinema indictment against Winchell in playing Winchell clone, J.J. Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success.
No doubt Winchell helped because Marty scored with four Oscars. Best Picture of 1955, Best Actor Ernest Borgnine, Best Director Delbert Mann and Best Adapted Screenplay Paddy Chayefsky. There were also nominations for Best Supporting Actress for Betsy Blair and Best Supporting Actor for Joe Mantell as Marty's 'friend' Angie.
Though its mores are definitely ground in the Fifties, Marty is a timeless tale that could easily be rewritten for the 21st centuries. There are still butchers in the Bronx and 30 something school teachers looking for love. It's what makes it universal.
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