Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti, Augusta Ciolli, Joe Mantell
Director: Delbert Mann (in his film debut)
Summary: A lonely butcher finds love despite the opposition of his friends and family
Other Nominations: Director*, Actor (Borgnine)*, Supporting Actress (Blair), Supporting Actor (Mantell), Adapted Screenplay*, B&W Art Direction, B&W Cinematography
-This is especially apparent after having just watched two very standard romance movies right before this, but nobody else has really made a romance movie like this before or after. It’s a romance stripped of glamour, gloss and passion and instead it focuses on two middle aged, average looking people who simply want someone to be with. The only other film I can think of that has the same feel is Don Hertzfeldt’s wonderful short Lily and Jim, which you should check out if you have never seen it. Marty is an incredibly refreshing idea from one of the most original screenwriters of all-time, Paddy Chayefsky, who is the only person to win 3 Oscars for solo-written screenplays.
-Borgnine gives a career-defining performance. He was previously known for playing heavies in films (much like he did in From Here to Eternity), but here he goes in the complete opposite direction, as extremely sympathetic, likeable, sensitive and real. Future Academy Award winner Rod Steiger played the character in the original TV version of the film, but I can’t imagine anyone him being able to so perfectly express the loneliness and vulnerability of the character.
-Even though the movie is only 90 minutes, making it the shortest Best Picture winner ever, it still gets a bit worn-out at times because it lacks any subtext and its themes are immediately obvious and continually repeated.
-The movie’s focus is on our main character, but the female lead (played by Betsy Blair) really should have a least a little more developed of a personality than she does. The fact that Blair isn’t all that great in the role probably doesn’t help help either.
-There is certainly some irony to casting Blair as a plain woman who no normal guy would want to guy out with, as she was married to Gene Kelly of all people at the time. She apparently got the part because Gene Kelly used his sway to pressure United Artists into casting her and getting her off the blacklist.
-Delbert Mann won the Oscar in his first feature he ever directed. A feat only later equalled by Jerome Robbins (Co-Winner for West Side Story, 1963), Robert Redford (Ordinary People, 1980), James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment, 1983), Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, 1990) and Sam Mendes (American Beauty, 1999).
It has some flaws, but at its core, this is an excellent, original love story with an outstanding lead performance by Ernest Borgnine.