You’ve GOT to see Marty

The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse production of Marty (1953)—A

The Hollywood version (1955)—A+ (yes, it is slightly better than the original)

In one of my recent articles, I talked a bit about the wonderful teleplays that were being produced in New York for live television audiences in the 1950s.  In some cases, the best of these made for TV productions were later remade by Hollywood.  In the case of Marty, the remake even managed to be a bit better and took four of the top awards at the Oscars in 1956 (Best Picture, Best Director for Delbert Mann, Best Screenplay for Paddy Chayefsky and Best Actor for Ernest Borgnine)!

My reason for talking about Marty is because it’s a rare case where the original TV teleplay still exists today.  It’s a case where you COULD watch both the original and the more polished Hollywood version.   And, this is definitely a case where I recommend you see both.  Also, this is an excellent ‘chick-flick’—though I actually watched it the first time with one of my friends and not my amazing wife!

Marty is the touching story of a somewhat ordinary and unattractive New York butcher in his 30s.  While he’d love to marry and raise a family, he’s never really been very good with women—and his insecurity around women is only made worse by his well-intentioned but annoying mother.  She is ALWAYS hounding Marty to find a nice girl, marry and settle down—but if it was THAT easy, he would have done it long before!  The most touching and sad moment is when Marty confronts his mother—and assesses himself and his chances of love in a brutally honest conversation.  However, this is NOT a film that is 100% miserable and depressing.  Marty eventually meets a nice lady.  Unfortunately, Marty’s friend thinks she is a ‘dog’—and pressures Marty to keep looking.  But Marty likes this plain lady…plus he’s a plain guy!  What’s next?  See this extremely touching production and find out for yourself.  Or, better yet, see them both.

The TV version, while extremely good, suffers for one huge reason—it’s much shorter than the movie and seems rushed.  Also, although Rod Steiger was excellent in the TV version, Ernest Borgnine is simply amazing in the film.  He is a bit more likable than Steiger—and again, some of this could be because the film isn’t rushed and allows more in the way of character development.  Both get top marks for ‘the dog’—as Nancy Marchand (TV) and Betsy Blair (the movie) were exceptional—though not necessarily household names, they were wonderful.  And, both versions are standouts for their raw emotions, charm and realism.  You simply cannot watch the films without them pulling at your heart.  So, be sure to have some Kleenex handy just in case.

So are you interested in seeing either or both of these Marty productions?  The Philco-Goodyear version can be downloaded for free (and legally) from archive.org, can be seen on Criterion’s Golden Age of Television DVD set or watched in full via the attached Youtube film to the right of this article. (Just remember to click on the “full screen size” button) The Hollywood version can be rented through Netflix, is frequently shown on Turner Classic Movies and is widely available on DVD from sites like Amazon (among others).  Good luck…and try to watch this one with someone you love.

by Martin Hafer