Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine) is a lonely butcher from the Bronx who lives with his mother and has little hope for ever finding a woman to marry. Luck is on his side one Saturday night when he finds a lonely schoolteacher, Clara Snyder (Betsy Blair), who shares the same fears about never finding someone to marry. That should be the happy end to the story, but as his family and friends dismiss her as unsuitable for him, does he go with his heart or cave to everyone's opinions?
The first thing that really stood out to me about this film is that it is more like our modern character-driven type independent movies. It is just a story about Marty. No twists of plot, no sub-plot, just a straight-forward movie about Marty. I think that was pretty unusual for the time. In fact, I read that Burt Lancaster helped finance this film because he believed it would bomb and he planned to use it as a tax write off. Oops.
The second thing is that I don't see either characters as terribly ugly like they are referenced in the film. Poor Betsy Blair is referenced as a dog more than one time, yet, although she may be a tad bit plain, she is in no way a dog. I expect that if you stepped out of Hollywood, both Betsy and Ernie would be average looking folk and not "dogs".
Ernie won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Marty. I have to say that both he and Betsy did great jobs in this. I use the word subtle often, but there are several scenes where it calls for a close-up of Ernie's face where he is being rejected or hurt and he does a good job of allowing it to come across. The scene where he calls a woman he met for a date is so painful. She rejects him numerous time and he closes his eyes as if to shield himself from the rejection. Really heart wrenching. In another scene he talks about how he was so depressed he considered suicide, not your average fare, and it is very touching.
I am not sure if some of the lines are supposed to be funny because they are usually in such a serious scene, but one I found kind of funny was when Marty and his mother were having a fight over her desire for him to go out in hopes of meeting a girl. Marty yells at her, "I am just a fat little man. A fat, ugly man." His mother calmly replies, "You're not ugly."
Another one is when Marty is dancing with Clara. He says, "Your not such a dog as you think you are." What a swell pick-up line. :-)
The one thing I had trouble with was believing that Marty would even listen to the people telling him that Clara is not worthy of him. Here is a man that was just saying no woman ever pays him any attention. He finds a decent woman that is interested in him. He enjoys talking to her and has a good time. When he drops her off he is so excited he can hardly contain himself. So, after that, a few unkind words from people who selfishly don't want to share him with a wife and he suddenly isn't sure if he should call her up again? I mean, excuse me? Not only that, but he promised her he would call and the whole movie builds up what a nice guy he is that always helps others and does what is right. I know him questioning calling her is crucial to the plot - it is the whole movie - but I just had hard time believing his indecision.
The last thing that I loved was a quote from Marty's mom when she was talking to her sister. I hope to use this quote some day in the future. She said, "Where you go, rain goes. Some day you are going to smile and we are going to have a big holiday." I love that line. I can think of so many people that would be appropriate for.
I fear that some people might find this a bit of a boring movie since nothing really happens - it is all about Marty having to make a choice to call up this girl for a second date or not. The acting is really well done as is the directing. I think it is a fine film for anyone who enjoys character-driven dramas. If you don't, you will probably fall asleep about halfway in.