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
Burt Lancaster doesn't appear in the film, but he is in the theatrical trailer as the co-producer who introduces the movie to the audience. See more »
When Marty rushes into the street to hail a cab after taking Clara home, he ends up facing the camera on the near side of the street, waving for a taxi while facing away from the oncoming traffic. See more »
When Marty drops off Clara at her home after their evening out, there is an additional 5-minute sequence where she visits her parents in their bedroom and discusses her date with Marty (included in the CBS FOX VHS and the 2014 Kino Lorber releases, but deleted from the MGM Vintage Classics VHS and DVD). See more »
Music by Harry Warren
Lyrics by Paddy Chayefsky (uncredited)
Played during the opening credits and throughout the picture
Sung by male voices during the closing cast credits See more »
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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