Guys and Dolls (1955) Poster

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Times Square according to Damon Runyon
jotix10017 February 2005
Damon Runyon's world of Times Square, in New York, prior to its Disneyfication, is the basis for this musical. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a man who knew about movies, directed this nostalgic tribute to the "crossroads of the world" that show us that underside of New York of the past. Frank Loesser's music sounds great. We watch a magnificent cast of characters that were typical of the area. People at the edges of society tended to gravitate toward that area because of the lights, the action, the possibilities in that part of town. This underbelly of the city made a living out of the street life that was so intense.

Some of the songs from the original production were not included in the film. We don't know whether this makes sense, but this is not unusual for a Hollywood musical to change and alter what worked on the stage. That original cast included the wonderful Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye, and we wonder about the decision of not letting Robert Alda, Sam Levene, Isabel Bigley repeat their original roles. These were distinguished actors that could have made an amazing contribution.

The film, visually, is amazing. The look follows closely the fashions of the times. As far as the casting of Marlon Brando, otherwise not known for his singing abilities, Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons, seem to work in the film. Sky Masterson is, after all, a man's man, who would look otherwise sissy if he presented a different 'look'. Frank Sinatra is good as Nathan Detroit. Jean Simmons, as Sarah Brown, does a nice job portraying the woman from the Salvation Army who suddenly finds fulfillment with the same kind of man she is trying to save.

Vivian Blaine is a delight. She never ceases to amaze as Miss Adelaide, a woman with a heart of gold who's Nathan Detroit's love interest. Ms. Blaine makes a fantastic impression as the show girl who is wiser than she lets out to be. Stubby Kaye makes a wonderful job out of reprising his Nicely Nicely Johnson.

The wonderful production owes a lot to the talented Abe Burrows, who made the adaptation to the screen. The costumes by Irene Sharaff set the right tone.
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Of its own time, and still memorable
intelearts26 December 2007
Along with South Pacific, Guys and Dolls is for grown-ups - - it is sassy, sexy, and full of men being men and women being strung along.

There is an energy and drive that makes this stand out from the pack - the strength of Jean Simmond's performance, and the charm of a young Brando, and an already masterful Sinatra add much to the overall feel and look of the piece.

Guys and Dolls wins as it is unashamedly what it is: an MGM musical.

Still good to look at and listen too with great tunes and dance numbers - it will remain one of the classics of 20th Century cinema and be watched with pleasure for years to come.

Warmly recommended.
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Delightful Musical
claudio_carvalho17 October 2014
In New York, the smalltime gambler Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) has been eloping from getting married with his girlfriend Adelaide (Vivian Blaine) for fourteen years. Nathan needs one thousand dollars in advance to rent a place for the crap game but neither he nor his friends Nicely- Nicely Johnson (Stubby Kaye) and Benny Southstreet (Johnny Silver) can afford. Nathan decides to bet against the gambler Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), challenging him to have a dinner in Havana with a woman of his choice. Sky accepts the bet and Nathan chooses the prude Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), who runs a mission for sinners. Sky visits Sarah and invites her to have dinner with him in Havana; in return, he would bring one dozen sinners to the mission. Sarah refuses the deal, but when General Cartwright (Kathryn Givney) comes to New York to shutdown the mission, Sarah feels that the only chance to keep the mission operating is accepting Sky's invitation. They travel to Havana and fall in love with each other; but when they return to the mission, Sarah discovers that Nathan used the place for his crap game. Further, she believes that Sky has plotted the scheme to use her. Now Sky has to convince the gamblers and gangsters that arrived in New York to the crap game that they should go to the mission to help Sarah.

"Guys and Dolls" is a delightful musical version of a Broadway successful play with Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. The romantic comedy is highly funny and entertaining with great musical numbers. Marlon Brando dances and sings and the number in Havana with Jean Simmons if one of the funniest moments of this movie. Despite the running time of 150 minutes, the viewer never feels tired or bored. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Eles e Elas" ("They (he) and They (she)")
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"Still It's Better Than Even Money"
bkoganbing11 September 2007
As the title song of Guys and Dolls philosophizes what we guys will not do to our dolls to win a bet or get a dice game going. That's the dilemma facing promoter of said dice game Nathan Detroit who can't come up with the $1000.00 for the Biltmore Hotel garage for the what is generally known as the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.

What to do, bet a reckless gambler Sky Masterson. Sucker him into betting he can't sweep a doll off her feet for a romantic idyll in pre-Castro Havana. The doll you pick for Sky is Sister Sarah Brown of the Salvation Army. Of course Nathan's life is also complicated by his 14 year long engagement to Adelaide of the Hot Box Revue.

Considering the resentments that festered between Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra who played Sky and Nathan, I can't believe this film got made at all. Especially when you consider both these guys never hesitated in walking off film sets if their anger was aroused. In Sinatra's case I can understand since Brando's playing the part he should have done. Proof of that can be found on Guys and Dolls cast album that Sinatra did for his Reprise record label in the early sixties where he shows what he could do with the Masterson songs.

Still Brando is not great, but not bad as a singer and Frank Loesser did write the Adelaide song for Sinatra for the film. Unfortunately he also wrote A Woman In Love for the score which Brando sings and which became a big hit. Not for Marlon Brando, but for another Frankie named Laine.

Jean Simmons is our Salvation Army Sergeant and she shows once again why was the most under appreciated film star of the fifties. That woman was in so many of the best films of that decade and never got any real recognition for her talent. I like her the best from this movie.

Vivian Blaine, Johnny Silver, B.S. Pully, and Stubby Kaye all came over from the original Broadway cast. They all contribute their unique talents to parts that became career roles for them.

With some smarter casting it's better than even money that Guys and Dolls would be a great and not a good film.
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It's chemistry! Enduring and quirky musical
LouE1528 April 2009
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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Hugely entertaining musical
TheLittleSongbird23 February 2011
As a fan of musicals, I saw Guys and Dolls, and was really impressed with it. The film does look great, with elegant set design and cinematography while the scenery and costumes are pleasing to the eye too. The score is outstanding, all the songs are so good and the accompanying music is very energetic, while the choreography just adds to the energetic feel of the film. It is very well-directed, has some great witty dialogue and an engaging story and characters.

Also, although the film is about two and a half hours, it doesn't feel like it. Thanks to the quality of the songs, choreography and performances the whole film whizzes by right up to its conclusion. Marlon Brando just exudes charisma as Sky, and Jean Simmons is a perfect match as Sarah. Even if their singing is not amazing, it is compensated by their acting and the chemistry between them. Frank Sinatra shows a great voice and appealing presence as well, and his acting is reasonable enough. All in all, a hugely entertaining musical with lots to like. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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the oldest established ...
didi-529 June 2000
Yes, its the one where the gamblers find a sort of redemption in their dolls after much singing and dancing and stuff. Maybe. This film seems to have lived alongside me for years - round exam time, through getting ditched, you name it. Sister Sarah and Sky and Nathan and Miss Adelaide and their chums were always there with those great Loesser melodies. Top of the tree is the Luck Be A Lady number which Brando puts across quite nicely, despite hardly being a singer. His great charm makes him a very good Sky. The scenes in Havana are hilarious and Vivian Blaine back at the club gives good value in her two big stage numbers. Looks like it belongs in a theatre, this film, but I bet you remember the tunes and huge chunks of the dialogue for a long time afterwards.
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I love it!
dallasryan3 November 2014
I love this movie. I never realized all of the songs I recognized and sang in school were from this movie. A fantastic mix of singing, dancing and acting. Rich characters that you love from beginning to end. Of course there are better singers than Brando but Brando did hold his own with every tune, and he was the best one for the part with his usual magnificent acting and likability.

Frank Sinatra is in top form and I always love watching the great and stunning actress Jean Simmons. You are in for a great time with this enriching musical. Fun for everyone. Will leave you falling in love with musicals all over again. A Must see!
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"Ummm... Filled with such fun good fellowship..."- Nathan Detroit, "Guys and Dolls"
allegretto9022 August 2004
"Guys and Dolls" is a thoroughly enjoyable example of musical comedy at its very best. The acting is impeccable, and what's more, almost believable (for a musical at least), the singing is pretty decent (well, Marlon Brando is another story, but I'll get to that) and the whole thing is just so amusing and entertaining that you'll be singing the tunes and quoting the lines long after you've finished watching it. Critics and viewers seem to sometimes have a difficult time with taking the film too seriously, by this I mean that a) Marlon Brando was not cast because of his singing voice (which was admittedly not good, but bearable), I like to think it was because he had irresistible charm, b) the whole premise is so unbelievable, to which I say, "name me a musical that IS wholly believable", and c) the movie moves too slowly, which is patently absurd, unless one does not have a taste for the slower pace of old movies and long, well articulated dance numbers, and romantic love scenes. This film pre-dates my existence by some 3 decades, but it still manages to rank among my very favorite pieces of movie-making and is an absolute must-see for musical and non-musical fans alike. 10/10
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Three for One
tedg30 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Mankiewicz is a film genius, in my mind one of very few intelligent men in the old Hollywood until destroyed by Cleopatra. But here he is in his element.

Here's the opportunity: it is as far from Broadway to film as from a book, comic, or TeeVee show. In fact the distance is greater because it is apparently less.

And since Mankiewicz is an intelligent writer (who makes up a lot as he goes), he has here devised three films in one: three visions co-existing.

We have the Broadway piece, supported by actors from the show. Mostly, this is nicely in the `stage' numbers at the Hotbox plus anything from Adelaide, but there are two male dance set scenes in this vein. And the `siddown you're rocking the boat' number.

Then we have the Frankie stuff. Adelaide is played straight -- that is she is played as a stage character, a fiction. Frank plays himself, because he actually is a cheap hood. The director relaxes all these scenes, and the music is allowed to become languid. See how the sets and camera differ for him.

But the most remarkable is Brando. He is in his prime here. What he does is act the role of a Broadway actor! Watch him look at the camera in fleeting moments as if to say, watch me do this. I can't sing or dance, but I can become someone who can. As with the Sinatra songs, the musical tone is adjusted for Marlon (and Simmons), to become led by the orchestra rather than the other way around as with `real' Broadwayites.

Mankiewicz had just directed Brando in Shakespeare, and knew what he had. Check this out -- it is the first selfreferential film musical, and you can't watch `Dancer in the Dark' or `Moulin Rouge,' without referencing this.
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Earful of cider - and how sweet it is
pyrocitor16 March 2018
Guys and Dolls really shouldn't have worked. Helmed by a director with no experience with musicals, starring two legendarily feuding leads, neither of whose singing styles (crooning/mumbling-with-notes) fit the piece, it's a testament to the fundamental fun of the Broadway show (faithfully adapted here) that its filmic companion is somehow all the more infectiously charming as a summation of its disparate parts. Call it luck, call it skill, but, over sixty years on, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz's film remains one of the most beloved and enduring movie musicals of all time, and still well worth experiencing for the first or fifty-first time.

It's also somewhat of a time capsule for a genre in the midst of transition. Mankiewicz juxtaposing Michael Kidd's snappy, avant garde choreography with static sequences of the leads singing swooning songs to each other and the camera lands the film squarely betwixt classical and contemporary sensibilities. Amazingly, the duelling styles complement each other perfectly, infusing the seedy gambling sequences with a jazzy excitement, while painting the parallel romantic subplots with a gentle sweetness and elegance. Similarly, Mankiewicz shows a flair for infusing setting with personality, as the New York sequences bustle with a nervy energy, while colouring the dalliance to Havana with a sultry breeziness. At two-and-a-half hours, the film is indisputably overlong, but the gentle, teasing humour throughout, and little touches like the strangely eloquent gamblers and their strangely stilted, contraction-free dialogue make it a thoroughly pleasant romp, antiquated sexual politics and all.

That said, it's the dazzling, star-studded cast who really give the film its unforgettable lustre. As infamous sex symbol Sky Masterson, Marlon Brando is suave, sparkling-eyed charisma personified, practically gliding through his scenes with the lope of a panther. However, Brando is too consummate an actor to deliver a mere caricature, and he weaves his breeziness with a deceptively nuanced undercurrent of brusque pragmatism and soft regret, to better sell Masterson's somewhat forced character arc into decency. Despite his purported distaste at playing second banana Nathan Detroit, Frank Sinatra proves perfect casting, delivering the perfect blend of fast-talking weediness and bombastic romanticism to keep relentless bum Detroit a roguishly irresistible scoundrel. Jean Simmons is a scream throughout, bustling with such gusto and perfect screwball banter to selling her 'adorably corrupted buttoned up prude' schtick as fresh and natural, while Broadway carryover Vivian Blaine is exquisitely sharp and witty as she is shrill, lending her scenes with Sinatra a vivacious energy.

What might have seemed an ambitious gamble at the time now plays as a pair of loaded-ahem-"special" dice, as Mankiewicz's Guys and Dolls bubbles with a perfectly mischievous sense of fun and irresistible heart. It may be simpler, sweeter, and less memorable than other genre-defining classics such as Singin' in the Rain, but if you're seeking out a rollicking, robustly entertaining classical gem, you're in luck. And (you've been waiting for this), luck be a lady tonight.

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Guys and Dolls (1955)
SnakesOnAnAfricanPlain14 December 2011
The opening says it all. Or rather, shows it. A beautifully choreographed piece sets the tone of the film, the city, and the characters. As we follow a watch being stolen numerous times, it shows us the petty crime, and the fun and exuberant dances show us the whimsical nature. Sinatra is great as Nathan Detroit, and Brando shows us a completely new side to himself. Sure, his singing may have been cut and pasted from multiple takes, but cinema is all abut creating illusions. The film may be gentle and obvious, but none can deny the sheer excellence of routines, such as the sewer craps game. Making good use of color, movement, humor, and songs, this is a classically addictive film.
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Has Some Very Good Sequences; A Bit Uneven Overall
Snow Leopard17 December 2004
Something of a mixed bag, the screen version of "Guys and Dolls" is worth seeing for the cast and for a number of very good sequences. Its main drawbacks are that it is rather uneven, and that there are too many times when the pace slows down, making it somewhat overlong.

The cast is good, although the performers do not always get the chance to use their abilities as fully as they could have. Frank Sinatra is always good in any singing role, but his character here does not give him much to work with aside from the songs. Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons were interesting choices. There are times when they work well, and other times when the material really doesn't suit them all that well.

The story is entertaining, yet slight, and is certainly not meant to be taken as anything more than a pretext for the musical numbers. The songs are good in general, with "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" as the highlight. Yet not all of them quite reach that standard, for one reason or another.

Overall, the movie is not bad, just not as much as you might hope for given who and what went into it. It's possible that this is simply a show that works better on stage, or it's possible that the movie could have been even better with a few improvements here and there.
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Simply a great screen adaptation of a stage classic!
Shapster1125 December 2000
In 1954 Marlon Brando was THE hot actor after his performances in Streetcar Named Desire and On The Waterfront. Frank Sinatra had yet to re-invent himself on the silver screen. But Sinatra's portrayal as the erstwhile Nathan Detroit, helped re-establish Sinatra with his fans.

It is a great screen version of a great play and the choices of leads and support players are terrific. Imagine a movie where Brando sings? This was his one and only singing role as he portrayed Sky Masterson. In addition the female leads, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine(replaying her stage role as Nathan's long suffering girlfriend Adelade), put in superlative efforts. Special mention goes to the great Stubby Kaye(as Nicely Nicely), and with all due respect to Eric Clapton, no one's version of Rockin' The Boat even comes close to Stubby's. Sheldon Leonard, who would go on to fame as TV producer of such shows as The Danny Thomas Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show does "Harry The Horse" wonders, B.S.Pulley is excellent as the harsh mannered and rough talking "Big Julie", and even Regis Toomey offers his excellence as "Brother Arvide".

It is one of the fun musicals to see, good comedy, and you get Sinatra and Brando. Soooooo "Luck Be A Lady Tonight" and brother..."it's your dice"
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Probably my least favourite musical
Leofwine_draca13 February 2014
GUYS AND DOLLS should be a fantastic, show-stopping musical...but it isn't. I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's something about this one that leaves me a little cold. Sure, it looks the part, and the cast is fine, but it's the storyline that I find lacking. It's just a little defunct, a little set back, so that you never really get involved with the various characters and their relationships.

The problem I find with some musicals is that, between the song-and-dance numbers, they can be a little, well, dull. That's the case with GUYS AND DOLLS, particularly early on. This is an overlong film that feels notably drawn out, especially in the first half. Even worse, it lacks the razzmatazz that you come to expect from a Hollywood musical during the golden era.

There's little to dislike in the pairing of Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra, but to be fair these two don't get much screen time. I found the character played by Jean Simmons - a prim-and-proper Salvation Army girl - drained energy from the proceedings. It doesn't help that the songs aren't all that memorable, either, with the exception of the climactic "luck be a lady" number, which is the sole moment when GUYS AND DOLLS feels like a "proper" musical. Sadly, the rest is just so-so.
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Oddly cast to say the least...but it does still work.
planktonrules2 June 2012
"Guys and Dolls" was a very successful Broadway play based on a Damon Runyon story. However, when Sam Goldwyn bought the movie rights, apparently he lost his mind. Think about it--you sign Frank Sinatra for the film but you DON'T give him the lead. Instead, you cast a guy who is NOT a singer--just an actor whose career happens to be very hot. And, in the female lead, they cast a non-singing play a New Yorker! You truly must assume that the folks making this film were insane....this is the only thing that would make this make sense! Now I am not saying that the non-singers were terrible (like the non-singers were in "Paint Your Wagon")--but their voices clearly are a bit lacking.

The film begins with Nathan Detroit (Sinatra) learning about a BIG business opportunity. In other words, there's a chance for this shifty gambler to strike it rich. All he needs is $1000...which he does NOT have. So, the quick-thinking Nathan bets his associate, Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), to make a strange bet--that Masterson can't get a local Salvation Army missionary (Jean Simmons) to go with his to Havana! Sky's plan works...of sorts. But there is a HUGE complication when he starts to have feelings for the lady.

Populating this film are a million and one mobsters who ALL wear very stereotypical costumes and have all the subtlety of a stripper at a Baptist social! The sets are also big and very stage-like. But, considering it's supposed to be a musical based on a play, all this and the weird dialog is pretty much what you might expect. It all also comes off as a bit cartoony and shallow--and that isn't necessarily bad--it's just silly, mindless fun.
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It's Guys & Dolls, Jerry, not Guys & Guys !!!
I love Sinatra as much as the next straight guy - not that there's anything wrong with that - but why is he playing a role in a musical where a full hour in he hasn't sung or danced? Any random plunker could have played Nathan Detroit.

Vivian Blaine's voice, demeanour and character bugged me the first second she opened her mouth in the cafe and by the time she was singing to her medicine cabinet I had to mute it before I suffered permanent ear damage.

I don't have any issues with Brando in the lead role. The guy had charisma to burn. If i want to hear pitch-perfect singing I'll go see The Three Tenors. Jean Simmons did well in a thankless, s3xless role.

The clipped dialogue thing wore on my nerves.

For the most part the songs did nothing for me.

The good news is that reading the IMDB reviews has convinced me that seeing a live production of Guys & Dolls is likely to be far more satisfying. It's certainly true in the case of West Side Story (arguably the apex of "American" music turned into a badly cast mess of a film).
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The best musical and one of the best movies ever!
HotToastyRag30 July 2017
Guys and Dolls is my favorite musical, and since my parents owned a theater company in San Francisco, and I've written three musicals myself, that is quite a compliment. I grew up on musicals, and have probably seen or listened to every one available. I've never seen Guys and Dolls onstage and I probably never will. The movie is the one and only version of Frank Loesser's musical, as far as I'm concerned.

There are exceptions, of course, but in general, I prefer the songs in a musical to help advance the story. In Guys and Dolls, all of the songs advance the plot. A couple of songs were cut out from the Broadway production, but for those who are listening for them, they can be heard playing in the background of applicable scenes. Even when the characters aren't singing, the music is advancing the plot! The plot is very simple, a classic among countless love stories through the decades. Two men make a bet that one can't get a particular girl to go out with him. You've seen that story a hundred times, but with singing and dancing, set in the 1940s, and played out in the style of old-fashioned gangsters, it's incomparable.

Sometimes, in the transfer of a stage-to-screen musical, the timing of the lines feels slow, as if the actors are waiting for the audience to laugh. Director Joseph Mankiewicz created a nearly perfect film. The script, co-written by Mankiewicz, is absolutely hilarious, and is delivered with perfect timing by the actors. Damon Runyon famously wrote a collection of gangster stories, which the Broadway show was based on, so all the characters talk in a very stylized manner. But if you're used to it, or at least expecting it, you'll crack up after every line. It's so adorable.

Guys and Dolls was the first Marlon Brando movie I ever saw, and it was years until I saw him in anything else, so I didn't quite understand how shocking it was for him to sing and dance in a musical. This is still my favorite of his performances. He and Jean Simmons, the reserved Sister Sarah, are so perfect together. The chemistry cracks, sizzles, and scorches. I probably should point out that Marlon Brando wasn't the studio's or my first choice to play Skye Masterson. Gene Kelly was supposed to be the charming lead, and as an experienced musical lead, he would have been a hundred times better in the part. My pick would have been Robert Mitchum, who played with Jean Simmons in three other movies, who had a very nice singing voice, tons of charisma, and perfected the art of bad boy.

Frank Sinatra plays the second lead, but since he was given a couple of extra songs, he pretty much shares equal screen time with Marlon Brando. In the film, he's the one who bets Marlon Brando to woo Jean Simmons, and while he makes such a reckless bet, the rest of his character is hen-pecked, stressed out, tired, but still charming and adorable.

If you like the famous songs that came out of Guys and Dolls, like "Luck be a Lady", "Guys and Dolls", and "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat", or if you like stylized period pieces where everyone speaks without contractions, or if you like Brando or Frankie, or if you like the scripts in musicals to be as entertaining as the songs, or if you want to laugh, or swoon, or sing along, or if you're looking for a new favorite musical, buy a copy of Guys and Dolls. I've seen it countless times. Once, when I was particularly blue, I watched it twice in the same week and still didn't get tired of it. It's one of the true masterpieces to come out of the 1950s.
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A classic musical time capsule
cricketbat31 March 2020
From the costumes, to the choreography, to the dialogue, Guys & Dolls is an impressive feat in bringing stage musicals to film. Marlon Brandon is cool, smooth, and collected as Sky Masterson, and Frank Sinatra plays the down-on-his-luck Nathan Detroit with relative ease (probably because he was miserable during the filmmaking). This is a classic film that any lover of musical theater should see.
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The Best Parts Still Shine
Eric-62-24 September 1999
It almost seems like they went out of their way to muck up this film as best they could. First they dropped several great songs from the original score ("Bushel And A Peck", "I've Never Been In Love Before", "More I Cannot Wish You", "Marry The Man Today") and replaced them with songs that are distinctly inferior. Then they badly miscast Marlon Brando in the lead (his one great moment in the film is when he delivers the line, "Dad, I've got cider in my ear!") and tampered with the ending, in effect eliminating the final punchline of the show.

But what makes "Guys And Dolls" ultimately different from other Broadways shows mucked up by the movies is that the parts that are great elevate the film so much that you can be charitable for the mistakes made. Jean Simmons' lack of vocal training hurts "I'll Know" but she redeems herself wonderfully on "If I Were A Bell" and gives a great performance overall as Sister Sarah Brown. And thank goodness Stubby Kaye's memorable "Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat" was transferred intact. Great sets and other supporting characters also help too.
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Luck be a lady
Prismark103 November 2014
Guys and Dolls is a famous musical and this version casts a great actor but unfortunately not one known for his singing and dancing abilities.

The story is about two guys who make a bet. Nathan Detroit (himself engaged for many years to a showgirl) who is running a permanent craps game in New York bets top gambler Sky Masterson that he cannot take a doll of his choosing to the then party and gambling capital, Havana. That girl Nathan picks is Sister Sarah Brown of the Salvation Army mission.

Of course in Havana both Sky and Sister Sarah with the aid of sweet milk fall for each other. In New York Nathan is getting pressured to elope with Adelaide.

The film has a stage bound setting with some arch but playful dancing. It was probably regarded as avantgarde and hip at that time, although a few moves were copied many years later by Micheal Jackson in his Smooth Criminal video.

Vivian Blaine, Johnny Silver and Stubby Kaye were in the original Broadway play and its shows in their performance in contrast with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. Sinatra's acting is less convincing although his singing is fine. Brando's Sky Masterson is measured and masterful but of course the singing is average at best with just the dancing in Havana that stands out. Even Jean Simmons who looks beautiful was not that great at the singing and I doubt she was that much stretched with the acting in my opinion.

As for the songs Guys and Dolls has a few signature and now famous songs, but there is also a lot of forgettable filler songs that seems to have always plagued musicals.

Ironically its the casting of Brando that drew me to this version and it is his acting that kept me watching.
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Luck WAS a lady with this one!
Sweet Charity3 January 2002
Warning: Spoilers
{Possible spoilers coming up... you've been forewarned.}

This is absolutely one of my all time favorite musicals and movie musicals! (The other is Damn Yankees with Gwen Verdon, Tab Hunter and Ray Walston) As we all know, sometimes the luster (not to mention the songs) of a show are lost in its transition from stage to screen. This is, for the most part, DEFINITELY not the case here.

The sets are divine, bright and colorful, the characters are bigger than life and you can't help but love them, and Michael Kidd's choreography is absolutely stunning. (So glad to know they used the original Broadway choreographer)

All of the actors "bounce the ball" (that is, have unbeatable chemistry) to perfection in this film. Frank and Marlon are absolutely believable as the proprietor of the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York, and the most notorious gambler who bets on even the most minute things-- such as his fever going up to 104 if he doesn't take penicillin. Sweet, fresh faced Jean Simmons is perfect for the role of Sarah (although it is true, her singing pipes are not as outstanding as that of Isabel Bigley or Josie de Guzman)-- the mission doll with a heart of gold and a drive to heal all. And last but certainly not least (on my list anyway) is Miss Vivian Blaine, reprising her Broadway role as Miss Adelaide-- the Hot Box lead singer and dancer who would like to finally end her 14 year engagement to Nathan with marriage, and rid herself of the psychosomatic cold he's given her.

First off, kudos to Stubby Kaye and B.S. Pulley as they reprise their Broadway roles as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet. There were never two more loveable gamblers than these guys.

Brando is superb, as usual, and though he's not got the voice of Robert Alda or Peter Gallagher, you forget it-- as he has this sense of determination to bring all he can to his role as Sky Masterson. "Luck Be A Lady" gives me chills every time I see him perform the number. Especially enjoyable is hearing him say "Daddy... I got cider in my ear."

Simmons is charming and pleasant in a role well suited to her looks, voice and the way she carries herself. You long so dearly for her not only to win Sky (or, toward the end, believe him), but to help people overcome their gambling, drinking and other sins, and live a life with God. Her rendition of "If I Were A Bell" is splendid, to say the least!

Sinatra is the man. He is so perfect for the role of Nathan Detroit-- and here he sings parts that Sam Levene from the Broadway cast never could (terrific actor, but the chap was tone deaf... go figure). I really enjoyed the addition of the song "Adelaide"... wish some guy would sing like that to ME. Frankie's cool, slick demeanor transcends the boundaries of this movie. But most importantly, you want him to marry Adelaide.

And speaking of Adelaide, Vivian Blaine is just sheer perfection in this role. From the accent to her belting out "Adelaide's Lament", she's just terrific. And she's also my favorite part of the entire movie. She really makes you feel for Adelaide... especially when she cries right before and then again during "Sue Me". I still haven't decided whether I like "Pet Me Poppa" better than "Bushel and a Peck"... maybe I like them equally. Either way, she does fantastic with those as well as "Take Back Your Mink." (I'm sad that they left out "hollanderize" from the film...) She's absolutely MARVELOUS, not to mention hilarious, and my favorite part of the entire film.

One of the best things about this movie is their lingo. It's a mixture of high class and street slang. Never do they use "It's", "I'll" or "That's." It's always "It is", "I will" and "That is." Overall, Guys & Dolls is one of my favorite all time movies and musicals, and it's one that you should take time to watch every time it comes on. My only complaint? No "Marry The Man Today." Now THAT'S a good song.
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Gamblers, Showgirl & A Salvation Sargeant
Chrysanthepop18 December 2012
Joseph Mankiewicz's 'Guys and Dolls' is a funny musical comedy based on the famous musical play. Colourful and full of energy, filled with songs, dance and gambling, the pacing does occasionally stumble as it sometimes feels as though the songs overshadow the story. In my opinion, some of the songs could have been left out, like the pussycat number. The overall dance numbers are very well choreographed. Hats off to the art department for making the film look so beautiful and vibrant with different colours. The cinematography is brilliant.

I never thought I'd see Brando sing and dance. It wasn't something I'd even imagined but he does a decent job. Sinatra is already familiar with this genre. However, his role is barely developed. Of the women, Vivian Blaine and Jean Simmons do a fine job using their comic flair. Stubby Kaye provides fine support as Nicely.

Finally, in my opinion, 'Guys and Dolls' is among the better musical of the 50s. Amusing, entertaining, energetic and (at the very least) foot-tapping, just what a musical should be.
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My comments on Guys and Dolls
Nanajanet195423 February 2008
I love this movie. My only disappointment was that some of the original songs were changed.

It's true that Frank Sinatra does not get a chance to sing as much in this movie but it's also nice that it's not just another Frank Sinatra movie where it's mostly him doing the singing.

I actually thought it was better to use Marlon Brando's own voice as he has the voice that fits and I could not see someone with this great voice pulling off the gangster feel of his voice.

Stubby Kaye's "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat" is a foot-tappin', sing-a-long that I just love. He is a hard act to follow with his version and I still like his the best.

Vivian Blaine is just excellent in this part and "Adelaide's Lament" is my favorite of her songs.

I really thought Jean Simmons was perfect for this part. Maybe I would not have first considered her but after seeing her in the part, it made sense.

Michael Kidd's choreography is timeless. If it were being re staged in the year 2008, I would not change a thing.

I find that many times something is lost from the stage version to the movie version but this kept the feel of the stage, even though it was on film.

I thought the movie was well cast. I performed in regional versions of this and it's one of my favorites of that period.
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A Disappointing Adaptation of a Nearly Perfect Musical
evanston_dad2 August 2006
I saw the 1992 revival of "Guys and Dolls" on Broadway when Nathan Lane and Faith Prince were playing the roles of Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide. That show was so colorful, vibrant and pulsing with energy, that it made Joseph L. Mankiewicz's screen version pale greatly in comparison.

Mankiewicz replaces Damon Runyon's cartoon world of stylized sets and goofy gangsters with what passed for realism in the 1950s. Much of the original musical's score is gone (even the well-known "A Bushel and a Peck"), in some cases replaced by forgettable tunes written expressly for the film. The stunt casting of Marlon Brando in the role of Sky Masterson works better than you might expect; Brando displays a humorous and charming side to his personality that he hadn't yet shown on screen. Frank Sinatra is too smooth and collected for the addled Nathan Detroit; Jean Simmons is bland as missionary worker Sarah Brown. Vivian Blaine nails the role of Adelaide -- every ditzy blonde role since owes at least a trifle to her performance.

The film never comes alive. You would think Mankiewicz would be a perfect choice for directing screen adaptations of stage material; his films always felt more like plays anyway, and his strength lay in directing actors through long passages of witty dialogue. But he's not up to the task of directing a musical -- the numbers just sit on the screen; there's no snap to them.

A worthy effort, but one that doesn't meet its potential.

Grade: B-
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