Marty (Ernest Borgnine) would be the first to agree with the old adage "nice guys finish last." A thirty-four year old bachelor with a stocky frame and ugly mug, Marty knows despite his gentle and conscientious demeanor, he is utterly lacking whatever it is women are looking for. So it's only his mother's nagging and his best friend's pressure to hustle up some week-end action that persuade him to face the heartbreak of the Stardust Dance Hall again.
When his request to dance is dismissed with an appraising glance, Marty feels destined to be a spectator all evening until a young man, victim of a disappointing blind date, offers five dollars if Marty will help get him out of the awkward situation. Too nice to participate in such a scheme, Marty watches another man accept the bribe, and the stoic look on the face of the woman who politely declines the substitute suitor. After the two disgruntled men leave, a sympathetic Marty follows her hasty retreat to the balcony, where his invitation to dance is met with uncontainable tears.
With such an unorthodox introduction, Marty and Clara (Betsy Blair), a twenty-nine year old chemistry teacher, skip the usual formalities and begin to talk about their mutual loneliness. As the conversation progresses, Marty wonders if he has finally found the girl he's searched for every Saturday night of his life.
But Marty's euphoria is quickly shaken by the negative reaction of his single friends and married cousin. When his widowed mother, suddenly afraid of being alone, also disapproves, Marty's good-natured desire to please others is really put to the test.
Although this quiet 1955 Academy Award winning film, containing many portrayals of smoking and drinking, may not appeal to young audiences, it is sure to speak to the heart of anyone who has felt like a wallflower or experienced rejection. Marty and Clara's longing for a committed relationship where they can be valued for who they are, and their recognition of the minor importance of physical appearance, stand in sharp contrast to the implied dishonorable and chauvinistic intentions of Marty's self-centered unattached pals. This movie sends a message of hope that good things do come to those who wait.
Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...
While some negative behaviors and attitudes are portrayed in this film, the story does a wonderful job of showing what traits should be taken into account when looking for a meaningful relationship. Marty and Clara are easy characters for older teens and adults to relate to.
Well-intentioned people nag a man about his single status. Character accused of throwing a bottle of milk at another character. Obviously paranoid woman claims she is afraid of being stabbed while sleeping. Man confesses to thoughts of suicide. Married couple quarrel. Man talks about a murder mystery novel where a woman was shot in the stomach. Male character verbally agrees with negative treatment of women.
Sexual Content: B
Many instances where men brag about “picking-up” women, or discuss looking for women who will go out with them (sexual interest implied). Twice, men are portrayed looking at a presumably pornographic magazine. Main character refuses invitation to join a male friend who is taking some girls to a more private location. Man tries to kiss woman who pushes him away. Hug and lip-brushing kiss depicted. Married couple sleeps in twin beds. A character accuses collage girls of being one step away from the street. Male characters contemplate attending burlesque show.
Character refers to his mother as “my old lady”. Derogatory slang words used to describe women.
Alcohol / Drug Use: C+
Many scenes shot in bar and dance hall, with smoking and social drinking, including some depictions of drinking to excess. Main characters discuss drinking beer while watching TV. Man purchases cigarettes from vending machine. Happy man says he is behaving as if he were drunk. One main and several incidental characters smoke.
Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...
Why have the 1950’s typical slang phrases of calling a woman a dame, a doll, or a dog, fallen out of favor? Are the expressions we have chosen to replace those phrases with today, any better or any less demeaning?
What qualities did Marty and Clara see in each other that made Marty suggest, “Maybe neither of us are such a dog as we think we are?” What traits would you consider important to the longevity of a relationship?
Home Video Notes
Marty releases to home video (Blu-ray) on July 15, 2014. It is available through Amazon on July 29, 2014.