Watching ‘Marty’ (1955) for the First Time with my Wife

It was a Thursday evening, and we couldn’t think of what to watch. Being people typical of our circumstance, we had every intention of better spending our time, and not wasting it like so many of us do day in and day out.  Scrolling through via my Apple TV, I suddenly found myself wanting to watch *Marty*: the classic 1955 film about a lonely guy trying to find love in New York City.

Less than a week ago, on a whim I signed-up a trial subscription to An app which markets itself as the perfect streaming app for film buffs, or Film snobs, to give a more accurate term.  If you’re not entirely immersed into the world of film and foreign films, then you’re just not trying to indulge in the world of cinema.  Or that is how some would like most to think. But no one is ever happy and film snobs, especially, are the hardest to please.

There was a time in my twenties where I was a huge film snob. When was less a place for streaming and more a place for renting DVDs, I filled my queue with every critically claimed film I could fit in there.  Spending many a lonely night watching masterpiece after masterpiece. Thinking I was somehow making myself a better person by watching these kinds of films. Truthfully, I had very few people with whom to discuss these films. And somewhere intimidated by my film choice. Thereby isolating me even more. Eventually, I gave up trying to watch “only the best”movies. 

There are still a certain number of films I will not watch. That fucking movie about trolls with that overplayed Justin Timberlake song about sunshine in his pocket. Nope. Just … no!

My wife reluctantly agreed to watch it. I didn’t know what to expect. But I have read so much about it. It was a sleeper hit when it came out. The actor, who plays Marty, (Ernest Borgnine), won an Oscar for best actor for his portrayal of a lovable lonely guy who, according to the film, was not attractive in the most shallow sense of the word attractiveness. Before Marty, Ernest was a character actor who played mostly tough guys, or bad guys. Others might know him as the asshole ‘Fatso’ in *From here to Eternity*.

Probably by 1955 standards this was a charming film. But by modern 2018 standards there exist parts that would be considered disturbing by today’s audience. I didn’t notice this so much when I would watch old films in my twenties. Or when I would watch movies on TMC in the 1990’s.  But I can’t not notice them now.

In the very beginning of the film, Marty is working behind the counter as a butcher, his current profession, in a butcher shop. One of the customers asks why he isn’t married yet at the age of thirty-four. And tells him he should feel ashamed for not already being married. ‘Jesus!’ my wife yelled, somewhat disgusted. Yeah, this would end up being one of the last things Marty would yell at his best friend by the end of the film. Nothing learned I guess.

Anyone who is ugly is a dog in 1955, according to this movie. What the film offers up as ugly was also troubling. It kind of reminded me of Love Actually where Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), who the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Hugh Grant), has a little crush on, is referred to as a little chubby by other characters throughout the film. Even when I watched it the first time when the movie came out I disagreed with that conclusion. Martine, the actress is anything but chubby, thank you very much.

I would argue the same thing for Clara (Betsy Blair), she’s described as a dog, or ugly. Sorry but to all the shallow people in this world of fiction, but these people are not ugly. I guess for the sake of drama, there needs to be something to overcome. But alas, the message is lost on me.

If you go to the IMDb listing for Marty, the description for the film reads:

> “A middle-aged butcher and a school teacher who has given up on the idea of love meet at a dance and fall for each other.”

The fuck? Marty is thirty-four. How is that middle-age? Updated your shit, IMDb.

Marty standing behind Clara

The only other somewhat disturbing part of the film happened near the end of Marty’s date with Clara. Clara is the girl he never thought he would meet. She’s just like him. They have a lot in common. It keeps getting later and later, but neither of them wants it to end. Especially, Marty. Clara, by 1955’s standards knows she needs to get home. That it isn’t right for a single lady to stay out so late with a man. But every time Marty asks her to stay a little later, or go someplace else with him, she agrees.

They end up at his house. This is where Marty finally loses his self-control and forces himself on Clara. Clara is not ready of course. And Marty gets angry at her. He gets mad at himself. Here Marty concludes he fucked up. He misinterpreted their evening. And decides the best thing is to just take her home. But then, Clara confronts him and tells him that she does like him, but she’s shy and wasn’t ready and didn’t know how to react.

Regardless of the happy ending, Marty trying to force himself on Clara—even if they are just kisses—immediately turned on my warning sign. I don’t want to dismiss the entire film because of this moment. But I also don’t want to recognize it for what it now means. And how much has changed … if little by little.

I did enjoy this film. Regardless of its shortcomings. There is no reason entirely dismiss a movie because it some of the topics and things discussed seem a bit dated. I think anyone who likes a good movie, who loves watching old movies, or likes a good story, should give Marty a try. I’m glad I can finally say I watched it.

What’s next to watch?


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