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Film Review: Marty
In 1955, Delbert Mann released the romantic drama film Marty based upon an expansion of screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s 1953 teleplay of the same name. Starring Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Miniciotti, Augusta Ciolli, Joe Mantell, Karen Steele, Jerry Paris, and Frank Sutton, the film grossed $3.5 million at the box office. Winner of the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, it also won the Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Writing, and Adapted Screenplay. It was also nominated for the awards for Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction – Set Decoration, Black-and-White, and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.
Marty Pilletti is a butcher who still lives with his mother at age 35 and has resigned himself to a life of bachelorhood as his siblings all have families of their own. However, everything changes when he meets a schoolteacher named Clara who also believes that she’ll never find love. But the two of them soon find happiness through each other.
Though it’s a great film that beat out a lot of other good films to win Best Picture, Marty is another one of those films that really dates itself culturally. This time, it’s done so through the societal expectations of the time, namely in how Marty is still living with his mother and unmarried when he’s over the age of 30. Though these days it’s pretty common to still be single and/or live with parents at that age, back in those days, the way a person was viewed who did so depended on their gender. For men, like Marty, they were either thought to be strange and awkward mother’s boys or suspected of being a homosexual. The former is actually seen in Marty’s aunt who warns his mother that his romance will cause Marty to abandon her. Similarly, like Marty’s aunt, women at that time were considered old maids who had completely lost any chances of finding someone with whom to settle down and were looked down upon. Usually this caused a lot of bitterness, which can be seen in Marty’s aunt. So it’s quite interesting that a positive film that showed people who were that old were bucking the societal norms and finding each other at such a late stage in life.
In fact, Marty being able to find love at that age during that time was also a thing of envy to his friends who are constantly seen trying to hang on to their diminishing youth. Throughout the film, they’re seen constantly asking each other what they want to do that night, showing that they’re stuck in a rut with really nothing to hold onto but said fleeting youth. What they actually are is in denial, considering they think what they’re holding onto won’t slip away, which is the most likely reason that they decided to make fun of Clara and Marty’s romance with her.
This is what drives Marty’s whole character arc in general. In the beginning, he’s like his friends who don’t really care about how single they are and are just trying to find something to do every night in order to convince themselves that they’re not really getting that old. But after enough pestering from the old ladies buying meat in his shop, he actually decides he’s had enough and realizes he’s not getting any younger and goes dancing, where he finally connects with Clara and the two spend an entire evening together getting to know each other. But initially, he’s seen as actually caring what his friends think due to him being forced back into the same rut when they make fun of him. But his realization that since she makes him happy and he likes her, helps him to understand that he shouldn’t care what anybody else thinks. This includes his aunt and, in a very satisfying call back to earlier in the film, Marty chides her for still being single.
The end of the film also ends on a well-done open-ended note, where he walks into a phone booth and calls Clara. Though it’s implied that they’re going to permanently end up together, it isn’t directly stated and wonderfully demonstrates that no romance ever has a definite end result.
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