Stuck as the last of six children at home with an overbearing Italian mother, the only child still unmarried, 34 year old socially awkward Bronx butcher Marty faces middle age with no prospects of marriage, and he faces permanent bachelorhood. But when he is goaded by his mother into going to the Stardust Ballroom one Saturday night, Marty unexpectedly meets Clara, a lonely teacher. Suddenly, Marty's future seems bright.Written by
Screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky was inspired to write the source material for this film when he stumbled across a Friday night Friendship Club Meeting at the ballroom of the Abbey Hotel in New York City. Chayefsky noticed a sign near the ballroom entrance that read "Girls, Dance With the Man Who Asks You. Remember, Men Have Feelings, Too," it gave him the idea for a play about a young woman attending a neighborhood dance like that. He said that he wanted to write a film about a man who goes to a ballroom, and that he set out to make Marty "the most ordinary love story in the world." See more »
The opening scene shows men in a bar in the middle of the afternoon. One patron says that the Yankees won both games of a double header that day. However, even in the 1950s games took about 2.5 hours to play so it is unlikely that a double header would have been finished by mid-afternoon when the scene is set. See more »
So I'm an old garbage bag put in the street, huh?... These are the worst years, I tell you. It's going to happen to you. I'm afraid to look in a mirror. I'm afraid I'm gonna see an old lady with white hair, just like the old ladies in the park with little bundles and black shawls waiting for the coffin. I'm fifty-six years old. And what am I gonna do with myself? I've got strength in my hands. I want to clean. I want to cook. I want to make dinner for my children. Am I an old dog to lay near ...
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A Modest Slice-of-Life Look at a Lonely Butcher's Life-Changing Weekend
Having just seen Jeff Garlin's charmingly lightweight "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With", I was curious to see its inspiration since there is constant reference to it throughout, including a scene where Gina Gershon and teen idol Aaron Carter are hilariously miscast in the leads of a stage version. Running only ninety minutes, the 1955 movie holds the distinction of being the shortest film to win the Best Picture Oscar, and its scale is indeed very small it covers a weekend in the life of a lonely, overweight Bronx butcher named Marty Piletti. The eldest of six children, the youngest of whom just got married, Marty lives a routine life living with his widowed mother and hanging out with best pal Angie (the source of a classically circular piece of dialogue - "What do you feel like doing tonight?" "I don't know, Ange. What do you feel like doing?"). Pushed by his mother to go to the Stardust Ballroom where there are a "lot of tomatoes", he inadvertently meets Clara, an equally lonely spinster schoolteacher from Brooklyn. It's intriguing to see how cultural mores have changed since both characters are considered over-the-hill for marriage even though he is only 34 and she 29. As they grapple toward intimacy, they face not only their own doubts but those of the people closest to Marty since they become aware how dependent they are on his constant availability.
Directed by Delbert Mann in his first time out at the helm, the production seems accurate in capturing the atmosphere of the mid-1950's lower middle class, and the dramatically effective setting allows Marty's story to take on a well-earned poignancy. This has primarily to do with the honest, unsentimental dialogue by Paddy Chavefsky (several years before "The Hospital" and "Network"). The observant performances complement the treatment with Ernest Borgnine giving his career-best performance in the title role. Even though he is sometimes too robust to be completely convincing as a socially defeated man, he brings surprising force to scenes when his self-awareness no longer can be hide his pain. Looking very much like Julie Harris at the time, Betsy Blair has a tougher role as Clara since her character is so withdrawn as to fade when Marty dominates the conversation. Even with her intentionally lank presence, Blair is too attractive to be considered mercilessly as a "dog". The rest of the cast takes more predictable turns Esther Minciotti as Marty's clinging Italian mother, Joe Mantell as codependent Angie, Jerry Paris (a few years before his days as neighbor Jerry Helper on "The Dick Van Dyke Show") and Karen Steele constantly bickering as Marty's cousin and his wife. It's a solidly modest film with no pretensions. Other than the theatrical trailer featuring producer Burt Lancaster's glowing praises, the DVD has no significant extras.
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