Reviewed on 2010 August 3
Oldie but goodie from 1955, that garnered the Oscar® for Best Picture and, while a more than a little dated, still does a pretty fair job of showing the joys of dating.
Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine) is a living, breathing dictionary entry for “nice guy”: a butcher with a big heart and the patience of Job, ignoring the shaming of his gossipy customers guilting him for being the only unmarried sibling in his family. He just politely hands them their lamb chops, but you can tell it’s beginning to get under his skin. He’s still a single man at the ancient age of 34 (this is 1955). Part of Marty’s problem is he thinks he’s an ugly little guy. Stick him in a suit and Marty is kind of cute in a bulldog sort of way, and his sweet nature would do the rest for him, if he would only meet a girl with brains in her skull instead of helium. His close-knit Italian family loves him but also takes advantage of his disposition, alternately trying to marry him off and using the house he shares with his mother (Esther Minciotti) as a dumping ground for meddling relatives. One night Marty goes to the Stardust Ballroom, and as miserable as his night is, he’s got nothing on Clara (Betsy Blair), a woman on the date from hell…
Some of the dialog is creaky, but most of it is spot-on. Listening to the men talk about less-than-gorgeous women and watching some of the chilly women at the Stardust quickly shoots lots of holes into the myth of dating being easier in the good old days. If there’s a weakness here besides age, it’s that you’d think Marty and Clara escaped from the Mutter Museum, and they’re really just…plain. So are a lot of Hollywood starlets, if you power-wash away their makeup. I don’t care how old it is, the “I-dunno-what-do-you-wanna-do?" exchange with his buddy Angela is still hilarious, and something I think everyone has done on a slow Saturday night. And does anyone else weep when they see those gorgeous ribs go for a whopping $1.79?
Three chocolate morsels. If you’ve got a nice spouse or partner, give ’em one too.