Dowdy but winning and poignant, and Ernie's Oscar. Borgnine is a burly, lonely, good-natured man living with his mother, with no prospects for any other kind of future. The heavy-set Bronx butcher lives in a small world populated by his Italian relatives and fast-aging male friends, chiefly
Mantell. When Borgnine and Mantell meet after work, they stand about mindlessly thinking of ways to fill their lives with something interesting to do. Their soon predictable, groping interchange never varies: "So, what do you wanna do tonight, Marty?" "I dunno, Angie. What do you wanna do?" At
home, Borgnine is totally dominated by his love-smothering mother, Minciotti, who fusses and worries over him. When Borgnine attempts to step outside of his world he's roundly rejected as a bumbling, unattractive person. He attends a dance with Mantell and others and tries to pick up some girls
but strikes out. Then he spots homely Blair, a schoolteacher whose life is excruciatingly similar to his, dull, hopeless, inching into loveless middle-age. Borgnine asks Blair to dance, and not long afterward they begin to date. But Borgnine runs into a brick wall when he introduces Blair to his
mother and male friends. His pals call her a "dog," and Minciotti is downright hostile to her, considering Blair a threat to her life with her son. Borgnine, not a courageous man, backs away from Blair. He doesn't call her as he promised, leaving her to sit miserably at home alone watching TV,
while he agonizes over ignoring the woman he has grown to love.
MARTY, coming in the mid-1950s, in an era of epics and extravagant films designed to stifle upstart television, was all the more startling in that it was a movie expanded from an original television drama (with Rod Steiger in the lead), written brilliantly by Chayefsky, one of the leaders of what
came to be known as "kitchen sink" or "clothesline" dramas. Besides Borgnine, Oscars also went to Chayefsky for Best Screenplay and to Mann for Best Direction, and it was named Best Picture.
Before doing this film Borgnine was nothing more than an uninteresting heavy. But here he showed the world the great depths of his own character. Mantell also gives a solid performance as the pal addicted to the more bloody passages of Mickey Spillane, constantly asserting: "Boy, he sure can
write." Blair is less effective, and Minciotti is not much more than a prop mother. UA executives were not enthusiastic about the production and almost cancelled the movie; they, along with the rest of Hollywood's elite, were amazed at the movie's universal success, and MARTY soon set a trend
toward the small-budgeted, prosaic films to come.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Dowdy but winning and poignant, and Ernie's Oscar. Borgnine is a burly, lonely, good-natured man living with his mother, with no prospects for any other kind of future. The heavy-set Bronx butcher lives in a small world populated by his Italian relatives a… (more)