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March 9, 2011

291. Marty
Directed by Delbert Mann
USA, 1955
IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Ally
First viewing


Marty Pilletti (Ernest Borgnine) is a stocky Italian American butcher who, at the age of 34, still lives at home with his mother (Esther Minciotti). He hits the town with his best friend Angie (Joe Mantell), but regular rejections leave Marty feeling lonely and dispirited. He has resigned himself to the bachelor life until he meets kindred spirit, schoolteacher Clara (Betsy Blair).

Essential Scene:

Mrs. Pilletti has asked her nephew Tommy (Jerry Paris) where Marty should go to meet girls. Later, over dinner, she tells Marty go to the Stardust Ballroom, which is apparently “loaded with tomatoes.” Marty reacts with amusement but, as his mother persists, his true feelings come to the surface.

Marty: Ma, when you gonna give up? You got a bachelor on your hands, I ain’t ever gonna get married.

Mrs. Pilletti: You gonna get married!

Marty: Ma, sooner or later there comes a point in a man’s life when he’s gotta face some facts. And one fact I gotta face is that whatever it is that women like, I ain’t got it. I chased after enough girls in my life, I went to enough dances. I got hurt enough, I don’t wanna get hurt no more. I just called up a girl this afternoon, I got a real brush-off, boy. I figured I was past the point of being hurt, but that hurt. Some stupid woman who I didn’t even wanna call up, she gave me the brush. No, Ma, I don’t wanna go to the Stardust Ballroom because all that ever happened to me there was, girls made me feel like I was a bug. I got feelings, you know, I had enough pain. No thanks, Ma.

Mrs. Pilletti: Marty–

Marty: [interrupting] No. I’m gonna stay home tonight and watch the Hit Parade.

Mrs. Pilletti: But you’re gonna die without a son!

Marty: So I’ll die without a son.

Mrs. Pilletti: Marty, put on the blue suit, huh?

Marty: Blue suit, grey suit, I’m just a fat little man, a fat ugly man.

Mrs. Pilletti: You’re not ugly.

Marty: [shouting] I’m ugly, I’m ugly, I’m ugly!

Mrs. Pilletti: Marty!

Marty: Ma, leave me alone! Ma, what do you want from me? What do you want for me? I’m miserable enough as it is. Alright, so I’ll go the Stardust Ballroom, I’ll put on the blue suit and I’ll go. And you know what I’m gonna get for my troubles? Heartache, a big night of heartache!


Last night was the first time I saw Marty but it’s already vying for a spot in my top ten. Big words from an obsessive list-maker such as myself, but that’s how deeply it spoke to me. Ernest Borgnine is wonderful in the title role, for which he deservedly won an Oscar. In one early scene, he telephones a woman he had met the previous week to ask her out on a second date. We only hear his side of the conversation, but the look on his face and the resignation in his voice is heartbreaking. (I spent the rest of the film misting up at regular intervals.)

Marty: Oh, I cry all the time, any little thing. My brothers, my brother-in-laws, they’re always telling me what a goodhearted guy I am. Well, you don’t get goodhearted by accident. You get kicked around long enough, you get to be a real professor of pain. I know exactly how you feel.

Marty eventually meets Clara, a schoolteacher who is similarly unlucky at love. These two lonely souls reach out to each other and, as they spend the night talking, we learn a great deal about the characters and witness the beginnings of a truly sweet relationship. Kinda gives ya hope, don’t it?

Marty: See, dogs like us, we ain’t such dogs as we think we are.

Fascinating Fact: The “what do you wanna do tonight?” conversation between Marty and Angie was later referenced by the vultures in Disney’s The Jungle Book.

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