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USA 1955
Directed by
Delbert Mann
86 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


The mix of Delbert Mann's repertory style direction and Paddy Chayefsky's screenplay, developed from his own teleplay (Mann also directed the 1953 "Philco-Goodyear Playhouse" television version with Rod Steiger in the lead) works well although no-one anticipated its huge critical and commercial success, not to mention 4 Oscars for Mann, Chayefsky, Ernest Borgnine and the film itself, let alone the Palme D''Or at Cannes.

Emanating from the independent production company of Harold Hecht and Burt Lancaster and symptomatic of the early 50s school of American black and white "realist" films (a school which would be decimated by McCarthy's HUAC hearings), it tells an endearingly sentimental story of the search for love by a lonely and good-hearted 34-year-old Bronx bachelor butcher (Borgnine). Whilst Chayefsky's script strikes the right note with its simple everyman story and well-turned, naturalistic yet slightly intellectualized dialogue (there are some nice lines such as the one about college girls being "one step from the street" and Marty's mates critical evaluation of Mickey Spillane's writing) it is Borgnine's performance that wins the day. Steiger turned down the role because he didn't want to sign a long term contract with United Artists but one feels that he would not have been as perfect as Borgnine, hitherto best known for sleaze-ball bad guy roles in Westerns, in the role. Less convincing is Betsy Blair, a Julie Harris-like actress who plays the Plain Jane, being nowhere as plain as the script claims her to be (she was married to Gene Kelly at the time) and having little to do than to be a maidenly (and fairly unlikely) beau for the lumpish Marty.




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