Stuck as the last of six children at home with an overbearing Italian mother, the only child still unmarried, 34 year old socially awkward Bronx butcher Marty faces middle age with no prospects of marriage, and he faces permanent bachelorhood. But when he is goaded by his mother into going to the Stardust Ballroom one Saturday night, Marty unexpectedly meets Clara, a lonely teacher. Suddenly, Marty's future seems bright. Written by
This film was selected to the National Film Registry in 1994. See more »
In the opening scene in the butcher shop, Marty is shown facing the camera and using a knife to cut between the bones of a roast (to make chops). He does not finish cutting all of the chops, but sets his knife down on the ledge of the counter to his right (our left). In the next shot, from the reverse angle (that is, with Marty's back to the camera), Marty again has the knife in his hand, and is cutting through the remainder of the roast. After he has finished cutting, he takes up a meat cleaver to complete the task of making chops. See more »
You don't like her. My mother don't like her. She's a dog. And I'm a fat, ugly man. Well, all I know is I had a good time last night. I'm gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna get down on my knees. I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me. If we make a party on New Year's, I got a date for that party. You don't like her? That's too bad.
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Despite having only the most basic of story-lines, this is a nicely-crafted movie with a worthwhile story. Ernest Borgnine deserves the praise he has received for his performance as "Marty", and he seems very natural in the part, for all that it seems so different from most of his other roles. The other characters are also rendered believably, and events develop naturally. While the two main characters may think of themselves as failures, viewers can see that they are just ordinary persons trying to be honest and sensitive, and this makes it easy to identify with them.
The story efficiently introduces Marty and the other characters, showing how he interacts with them. Since the others are all so absorbed in their own concerns, they view Marty solely in terms of how he fits in with their own plans and desires, again making it easy for the viewer to relate to him. Joe Mantell, Esther Minciotti, Augusta Ciolli, and Jerry Paris make Marty's family and friends thoroughly believable, and they work well in their interactions with Borgnine. By the time that Marty meets Clara (Betsy Blair), everything is set up so as to get the most out of the possibilities.
Praise also goes to Delbert Mann and Paddy Chayefsky for being willing to make a movie out of such low-key material. It may not impress those who have become benumbed by the ostentation of present-day film-makers, since its quality is of a subtler, more unaffected kind. But it's a worthwhile achievement in its own right, a story about ordinary persons and everyday concerns, of the kind that takes skill and understanding to make well.
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