Originally broadcast as a 50-minute drama on Philco Television Playhouse
in 1953, Marty
ensured Paddy Chayefsky's status as one of the greatest writers of television's golden age. When Chayefsky, director Delbert Mann, and actor Ernest Borgnine reunited for this 90-minute film version, the play had been polished with extra scenes, further perfecting Chayefsky's timeless study of loneliness and heartbreak. And the film, in which Borgnine excels as the single, 35-year-old "fat and ugly" butcher Marty Pilletti, received well-deserved Oscars® for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Screenplay. Although Chayefsky's central theme is the pain of being unwanted (as felt by Marty himself as well as his elderly Aunt Catherine, who's become a burden to her married daughter), the film is never somber or depressing, and achieves a rare quality of honesty, humor, and hopefulness without resorting to artifice or sentiment.
Marty's just about given up on love when he meets plain-looking Clara (Betsy Blair), a 29-year-old teacher who's endured similar cycles of rejection. Much of Marty explores the simple decency of these characters, their admirable qualities and mutual connection, and the slow escalation of self-esteem that will hold them together. Marty is a supremely compassionate film, but it's also an entertaining one, trimmed (like a good butcher's meat) of any dramatic fat. And although Blair (who earned an Oscar nomination) is superb in her role, it's worth noting that she's more conventionally "attractive" than Nancy Marchand (late of The Sopranos), who played Clara with arguably greater authenticity in the original 1953 telecast. --Jeff Shannon