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MOVIE/ Marty: The Quest for Beauty

Review of the 1955 Oscar winning film Marty, the story of an ordinary guy and an ordinary love story, which becomes something beautiful in reflecting the story of every person

"Marty" movie poster

I came into the house Sunday afternoon after digging in the garden, and my husband had the movie "Marty" on the TV. I'd never seen it before, but he's seen it dozens of times. I sat down and watched with him.

This gem tells a simple story about regular people. A 34-year-old bachelor named Marty Pilletti is hounded by his friends, his family, even the customers in the butcher shop where he works in the Bronx about why he is still single. It won the 1955 Academy Award for Best Picture and the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

It's not that Marty doesn't want to marry. But Marty, who lives with his widowed Italian mother, has had no luck even in dating. In one of the film's first scenes we see Marty, played by actor Ernest Borgnine, calling a young lady he met a month earlier and asking her out. We can tell from the expression on his face that she is turning him down. 

From that lonely moment in his parents' living room, his pain and his quest are ours. "I've been looking for a girl every Saturday night of my life." Marty says. He is stocky and plain but we can see he is a good man, honest and hardworking and loyal.

One aspect of the film that surprised me was the presence of and depiction of Catholic culture. Marty and the rest of his extended family go to Sunday Mass. The fact that Clara is Catholic, too, appeals to Marty.

American playwright Paddy Chayefsky wrote the screenplay, with its believable depiction of mid 20th century Italian immigrants and their Americanized children. The dialogue is superb: funny and poignant.

When Marty meets Clara, a plain and lonesome high school Chemistry teacher, he brings her to his mother's house. Later, his mother tells him: (on the steps of their parish church) "Those college girls, they are one step from the street". Marty protests: "She's a nice girl." "She doesn't look Italian."

And so we understand that Marty, who has been harangued by everyone for being single, now faces the disapproval of his mother and everyone else in his life when he finally finds the girl that he finds beautiful. Against this is the backdrop of Marty's neighborhood with the changing mores between Italians and their American children.

This film is short: 91 minutes. The plot and setting are simple. But because Marty's quest becomes our own, this movie will find a place in your heart long after the DVD is over.

(Allison Salerno)
First appeared in Rambling Follower

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