28. Marty (1956)

Title: Marty

Release Date: 11 April, 1955

Oscar Ceremony: 21  March, 1956

Director: Delbert Mann

Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti


Nominees: Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing, Mister Roberts, Picnic, The Rose Tattoo


“See, dogs like us, we ain’t such dogs as we think we are.”- Marty Pilletti

I would have never pegged Marty as a Best Picture winner. For one, I can’t take it seriously because of its title. It sounds like I’m about to watch some silly slapstick comedy special on TV. The other thing is, when I went to go look for it at the library, I found out that they keep it in a hidden storage in the basement and they only go down there if you specifically ask them to. I guess not many people borrow Marty on a weekly basis. Finally, when a librarian gave me the copy, I was really turned off by the cover:

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Would you be excited to watch this? Me neither. To my surprise though, it ended up being quite amusing. I don’t consider it to be of Oscar caliber compared to its fellow winners over the years, but it was definitely a nice little break. You really don’t have to put too much thought and effort into it; just sit back and enjoy.

So who exactly is Marty? Picture a 34-year-old chubby Italian bachelor living in the mid 1950s. He works as a butcher and lives with his mother. All of his younger brothers and sisters are married and most of them have children too. The most common conversation topic he’s faced with is: “When are you gonna get married, Marty? You should be ashamed of yourself.” Poor guy. He’s pretty much given up on finding a girl because he figures that whatever it is that women want, he doesn’t have it. Still, he reluctantly agrees to go the Stardust Ballroom after being harassed by his mother, who heard it’s a good place to pick up girls. It turns out that mama knows best, because he ends up meeting someone! Her name is Clara, and she’s described as an “unattractive schoolteacher.” They kick it off right away, but what will everyone else think?

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Ok, first of all, can I just say that I often find myself baffled by the beauty standards that people in movies abide by? I actually don’t find this woman unattractive. She might not be a beauty queen or have the best style, but you should see the way others describe her. I was expecting much worse. The opposite is true with every guy calling Donna hot in That 70s Show. I mean, she’s alright but I definitely wouldn’t consider her a “hotness” icon. I guess we’re just expected to go along with these things.

This movie’s charm lies within its cuddly protagonist and its portrayal of Italian-American culture during the 1950s (and still surprisingly accurate today). Marty is no Marlon Brando, but he is genuinely one of the most kind-hearted guys out there and the viewers know that any woman would be lucky to have him. He might run into the danger of becoming a mama’s boy, but isn’t that the eternal struggle with all men? I wasn’t familiar with Ernest Borgnine prior to watching this movie, but I think he did a charming job at making us root for this lonely bachelor. As for the actresses playing the old Italian moms and aunts, kudos. They picked actual Italian women for the roles and I guarantee if you’ve known any in your life, you’ll recognize them in these roles. Italian-Americans represent a significant part of America’s culture, and when it comes to films they’re too often represented as mobsters. It’s nice that Marty invites us to consider diverse perspectives and sheds some light on the average middle-class life.

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In the end, this movie feels more like a short film. In fact, it’s only about an hour and a half long. It would work well as a play or as some sort of piece portraying the cultural and social norms of 1950s New York. It doesn’t explicitly follow through on the characters’ futures and ends quite abruptly, but I found it appropriate considering the light-hearted and simple nature of the film. It would have lost much of its charm had it dragged on for too long. If you come from a family or community that gets overly involved in your life, if you’ve ever felt like you would never find true love, or if you’ve experienced intense social awkwardness while trying, you’ll find Marty quite relatable.

 

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