Only two films have ever won the double of the Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Academy Award for Best Picture, and one was director Billy Wilder’s 1945 The Lost Weekend about recovering alcoholic writer Ray Milland while the other was Marty, director Delbert Mann’s 1955 romance about decent, honest shy and awkward 34 year old Bronx butcher Marty (Ernest Borgnine) and decent, honest, shy and awkward 29 year old teacher Clara (Betsy Blair).
The two meet when Clars is cruelly dumped by her blind date at the local ballroom for being a “dog” the intellectual local lad’s term for women they find unattractive, unlike “chicks” that they do. Marty is outraged to be offered five dollers to take her home and, after her callous date has gone off with his choice of “chick”, asks her to dance and winds up with her bursting into tears on his shoulder. From an unlikely start they gradually warm to each other as they walk and talk and discover their similarities, the outcome clear when supposedly plain Clara treats Marty, and us, to a most beautific smile.
Sadly for Marty not everyone welcomes his new-found happiness. His widowed mother, once in favour of him getting married, now sees Clara as a threat to take Marty away from her and leave her on her own, especially after Clara makes it clear she is not in favour of in-laws living with their sons or daughters. And Marty’s pals, who give new depths to the word “shallow” are not keen to see him leave since Marty’s long-standing lack of success with women has made them look good. So cue some agonising heart-searching for the shy butcher who is starting to love being in love.
Marty was adapted from a 1953 NBC teleplay scripted by renowned screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky (Network in 1976) and starring Rod Steiger in the title role, so, for our money, equally good. This excellent teleplay is part of the special features of the Dual Format Blu-Ray/DVD release of Marty at the end of this month by Eureka Classics. The film version was co-produced by Burt Lancaster (uncredited) allegedly as a tax loss, runs for 90 minutes in black and white and the presentation also includes interviews with film scholar Neil Sinyard, Delbert Mann and some of the cast of the teleplay, Rod Steiger, Nancy Marchand and Betsy Palmer.