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Film / Marty

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”See, dogs like us, we ain't such dogs as we think we are.”
-Marty Pilletti

A 1955 film directed by Delbert Mann and co-produced by Burt Lancaster, Marty was based off a telefilm by Paddy Chayefsky, who also wrote the screenplay. It was the Star-Making Role for Ernest Borgnine, which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor. The film also won Best Picture and earned its director and writer Oscars, as well as the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. After The Lost Weekend, it became the second film to win the Best Picture Oscar and the Palme d'Or, a feat that would not be repeated until Parasite 2019 64 years later. It is also the shortest film to win Best Picture, at just 90 minutes long.

Marty Pilletti is a butcher who lives with his mother. At 35, he's resigned himself to a lifetime of bachelorhood while his siblings have families of their own. Everything changes when he meets Clara, a schoolteacher who has also resigned herself to never finding love. Through each other, they find happiness.


Legend has it that co-producers Harold Hecht and Lancaster decided to make the film and cast Borgnine (a character actor best known for playing heavies) assuming it would flop, and use it as a tax-write off.

This film features examples of:

  • Arc Words: Variations throughout on "What do you wanna do tonight?", reinforcing the aimlessness of Marty and his friends and the rut that Marty's stuck in.
  • Author Avatar: People who knew Paddy Chayefsky suspected that Marty was one. Chayefsky was also a stocky, socially-awkward guy from a blue collar background.
  • Book-Ends: At the beginning, all the old ladies buying meat from Marty at the butcher shop pester him about getting married, saying "You should be ashamed of yourself" for still being single. At the end, Marty says the same thing to Angie before calling Clara.
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  • Catch Phrase: Marty frequently shouts “Perfect” and “Fantastic.”
  • Dances and Balls: Marty meets Clara at a dance hall for single folks.
  • Jerkass: Clara's incredibly callous date.
  • Kitchen Sink Drama: A simple story of a lonely butcher who finds a chance for love with a schoolteacher.
  • Maybe Ever After / No Ending: Marty finally gets angry at Angie and his other friends for badmouthing Clara. He says "If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna get down on my knees. I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me." He calls Clara, and she picks up the phone. The End.
  • May–December Romance: Discussed among Marty's friends. One states that a man should marry a woman twenty years younger than him so she'll still be young and beautiful even when he's forty. Another one points out that that would mean marrying a newborn.
  • Motor Mouth: Marty, when he's with Clara. He even surprises himself.
  • My Beloved Smother: Aunt Catherine bugs her daughter-in-law so much that the daughter-in-law insists she move in with Marty and his mom. After Aunt Catherine gets Mrs. Pilletti scared about being abandoned, Mrs. Pilletti becomes a similar My Beloved Smother for Marty.
  • Plain Jane: Clara. Marty himself is a male version.
  • The Pollyanna: Marty. Despite not being married, he still thinks positively.
  • The Remake: Of a 1953 live television movie starring Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand. The actors who played Marty's mother and aunt and his best friend Angie reprised their roles from the teleplay.
    • The 1991 movie Only The Lonely starring John Candy is often considered a loose remake, due to the similar plot, with Irish characters instead of Italians.


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