Oscar Bait – Marty

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martyTitle: Marty
Director: Delbert Mann
Year: 1955
Country: USA

When I added the Best Picture list to the blog I made mention of the fact that it is a rarity for my favourite film of the year to agree with the Academy. Well, for the first time since starting this blog  I have found one. Just in time too, I only had one left to go after this.

So what is it about Marty that makes it my favourite film of 1955 (that I have seen so far). Honesty. It’s not unusual for a romantic drama to be the winner, but a film that only takes place over two days and possesses an ending that is up to your interpretation? That’s unusual.

Okay, let’s back up a bit. The film centres around Marty (Ernest Borgnine in fantastic form) a 34 year old butcher from the Bronx and the only one out of six children not to be married. Not that he doesn’t want to. He’s desperately lonely and pretty much everyone gives him grief about not settling down. The reason? No girl will agree to give him a chance because of his looks and because of his profession (or at least that’s how he sees it… it is the 1950s after all). That means no one will agree to this initial courting.

Since we now have online dating and the like, a film like Marty can feel a little bit quaint. I mean, the idea of going to a dancehall every Saturday night in the slim hope of finding a future husband/wife? No wonder you got live long bachelors and spinsters; it’s brutal and painful.

This is what Borgnine (and Betsy Blair) is able to convey in spades. Pain, desperation and the sheer amount of over-sharing that occurs when you finally come across someone who has given you the amber light.

The length of this film (at 90 minutes this is the shortest film to ever win Best Picture) is a great asset. It gives greater significance to the night that Borgnine and Blair’s characters meet and the first date that ensues. It’s honest enough about their awkwardness in order to prevent it from becoming too saccharin.

It is in the final act where we see the true reason for Marty’s perpetual singlehood – his friends. These friends are complete arseholes. The kind of friends that are happier to maintain the status quo of the group rather than one of their own be happy and end up leaving. It’s only when he realises what he really wants that Marty is able to get it. A bit of a life lesson for us all really.

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