Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Marty" with Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair (1954)

Long before "McHale's Navy", or "SpongeBob SquarePants", Ernest Borgnine was the Oscar Winning Actor who starred in the Oscar Award Winning Film "Marty", in which he plays an unmarried butcher in New York during the 1950's. The play, written by Paddy Chayefsky, who also did the screenplay, was the first of two films which Mr. Borgnine did with the legendary playwright. The other was "The Catered Affair", in 1956 with Bette Davis and Debbie Reynolds. If you have never seen either of these two films, then you have never really seen Ernest Borgnine act.

Both of these films were made on location in New York; in the Bronx, and Manhattan. The film has the gritty feel of the 1950's as Marty, played by Ernest Borgnine, struggles to find peace with himself. He is 35 years old, unmarried, and lives at home with his widowed Italian mother, Mrs. Piletti, played by Esther Minciotti. They are very content with their lot in life, he works in the butcher shop, and she stays home caring for her only unmarried child. But beneath this idyllic facade there is discontent. Mrs. Piletti wonders why her son is always alone, hanging around the house, or out with friends. His younger brothers are all married and the pressure is mounting upon Marty to do the same.

Marty's friends are not much help. Misery likes company and they are all unwilling to let Marty walk away from their mutual meaningless existence; that would only underscore their own short comings.

At home, Marty faces another dilemma; his Aunt Catherine, played by Augusta Ciolli, is living with her son and daughter in law, with little success. Aunt Catherine is hyper-critical of her daughter in law and there is much friction. Since, as Mrs. Piletti observes, "Two women can't share one kitchen", Aunt Catherine moves in with Marty and his mother. Soon, Aunt Catherine has infected her sister with the worry of what will become of her should Marty ever meet a woman and marry. Will she be left alone? Or worse, will she be cast out, as her sister has been? All of this serves to further conflict the affable Marty as he struggles with his loneliness.

When circumstances place Carla, a shy and average looking woman, played by Betsy Blair, in his path, Marty is ecstatic. He has always felt that he was one of those people destined to never find love. Carla, who has had her share of disappointments as well, is equally happy to have met Marty, hoping that things will progress further.

But first, Marty must try to sort out his conflicted feelings. On the one hand, he doesn't want to be alone forever; but on the other, he is guilt ridden over the thought of leaving his mother alone. And on top of that there is always the fear of rejection on the part of Carla.

Will Marty break free of his friends grip? Does he have what it takes to take a chance on love? The answers to those questions lie in this wonderful play by Paddy Chayefsky. Filmed in, and around New York City in the 1950's, the film captures the feel of the city in all of its black and white glory. As I said before, if you have never seen this film, then you have never really seen Mr. Borgnine act. Oh, and did I forget to mention that I'm a big fan?

To read a review of Mr. Borgnine's autobiography, go to;

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