- Episode aired May 24, 1953
Marty Pilletti is a 36 year-old butcher who lives with his mother. His brothers and sisters are all married and his dear mother - along with several other of her friends - is always asking h... Read allMarty Pilletti is a 36 year-old butcher who lives with his mother. His brothers and sisters are all married and his dear mother - along with several other of her friends - is always asking him why he doesn't find a nice girl and get married. The truth is Marty is lonely and would... Read allMarty Pilletti is a 36 year-old butcher who lives with his mother. His brothers and sisters are all married and his dear mother - along with several other of her friends - is always asking him why he doesn't find a nice girl and get married. The truth is Marty is lonely and would like nothing better. He has very low self-esteem however and admits to his mother that he... Read all
The story itself is just a slice of life, (literally). A plain-looking, overweight Bronx butcher meets up with a homely girl at a dance and decides he wants to marry her, over the objections of his mother, who is afraid of being turned out of their house and his friends who think she's a "dog". And that's all there is to it. That's all there needs to be to it. It's not dramatically overpowering, just bitter-sweet and real. A typical episode of a modern TV series has more "action", a more complex plot and even more complex characters. But we've lost the ability to present these simple but touching stories because there is no platform for them anymore.
It's axiomatic, (but not always correct) that the original TV version is always better than the film. So is the play or the book. Something is always better than the film. But why do we keep going to them? The TV Marty was written in a matter of days, (the announcer at the beginning intones that this is "the 483rd presentation of Goodyear Playhouse". Greatness is going to hard to maintain with that schedule. Fortunately, this was not a film that required too much in the way of production values. But the script of the film is a more refined work, with more to it because Paddy Chayefski had two years to work on it and another 40 minutes of screen time to work with. It's a more complete story with a greater examination of supporting characters, (especially Marty's bickering in-laws that give him a sorry example of what a marriage can be like: there's also a scene of his girlfriend with her parents that is missing from the tape version).
Ultimately, though, it comes down to the actors and what they bring to the characters. Several of them are the same but in the movie Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand are replaced by Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair. In classic Hollywood style. Blair is too good looking for her part. She's not Liz Taylor but she's hardly the "dog" Marty's friends insist she is. She also has a hairdo that's clearly the product of tinseltown know-how. Nancy Marchand looks the part. Unfortunately the estimable Ms. Marchand, (Mrs. Pynchon in Lou Grant), puts very little into it, playing her character not like a wallflower but like a crime victim. She seems to be in shock, with an inability to emotionally react to anything. It's a reasonable question to ask what Marty sees in her and it has nothing to do with looks. Blair, on the other hand, has a sweetness that makes the attraction seem much more logical.
The ultimate comparison, of course, is the two Martys. Rod Steiger is a great actor giving a great performance. Ernest Borgnine is a good actor giving a very good performance. Steiger is an introvert who wears his pain outside of his skin. Borgnine is an extrovert who hides it deep inside. He seems like a nicer fellow, one that one would make for a more interesting evening. I think he might make a better husband, too.
I love looking at films of this period to see so many faces I remember from the TV shows I watched growing up, many of them still early in their careers, still hoping for major stardom. They contributed a lot to the business even if they didn't become household names. Looks for George Maharis and Don Gordon in the ballroom in the TV version and Nehemiah Persoff as one of Marty's thick-headed friends. Howard Caine, (Hochstetter from Hogan's Heroes"), was the bartender. Lee Philips, his brother in law, was later the star of the glossy movie version of Peyton Place. Betsy Palmer brightened up many a game show. Johnny Berardino is one of the barflies from the movie. Frank Sutton, Gomer Pyle's nemesis, is another of Marty's pals. Jerry Paris, later Elliot Ness's first side-kick, then Dick Van Dyke's neighbor before becoming a leading TV director, replaced Philips in the movie. His wife was played by the beautiful Karen Steele, who guest starred on shows like Maverick and Perry Mason. Why didn't she make it big?
- Aug 30, 2006