The Original Mama’s Boy
Lonely Bronxite Marty (Ernest Borgnine) is being shown up by his younger brothers and sisters — they’re all married but him, and he’s got all the Italian ladies in the butcher shop where he works telling him, “You should be ashamed a youself!” and “Whena you gonna get married, Marty?” He’s from a nice Italian Catholic family — the object of life is to spawn, and he’s not fulfilling his God-given purpose.
Marty is the simple, heartbreaking story of one man who’s given up on the whole dating scene. His Ma (Esther Minciotti) is bugging him to find a nice Italian girl, too, and he explains his frustration to her in a painful scene. “I’m a fat ugly man!” he yells at her. He’s had enough rejection. And then, wonder of wonders, one night he meets Clara (Betsy Blair), a plain and plain-spoken chemistry teacher, and these “dogs,” as he bluntly calls the two of them, hit it off. But his troubles don’t end there: His mother, for all her nagging, is suddenly afraid of being left alone, and tries to persuade Marty that Clara’s not the girl for him. And his loser friends, who think they know all there is to know about women but spend every Saturday night with each other, are also jealous of Marty’s new friend.
Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay captures perfectly the yawning loneliness of Marty’s bachelor life: hanging out in bars with buddies and the awkward phone calls to girls who’d rather not hear from him, the disappointment of crushed dreams and the daring it takes to develop new hope, the awfulness of dating and the coldness of even family and friends. Director Delbert Mann’s camera lingers on Borgnine’s soulful face as he is slapped again and again by women’s rebuffs.
In some ways like Nancy Savoca’s 1991 film Dogfight (with River Phoenix and Lili Taylor), Marty puts its unfortunate characters under a magnifying glass, searing them with the cruelty of their world and the people around them. A compelling and thoughtful film, its strong performances by Borgnine and Blair alone would make it a must see.
Oscars Best Motion Picture 1955
unforgettable movie moment:
Marty and his friend debate their plans for the evening: “Whaddaya wanna do tonight, Marty?” “I dunno, whaddaya you wanna do?”