Humble in The Bronx
I was really happy when I saw Marty coming up on TCM because I had been wanting to see it for a long while. And damn, this movie was/is a rare gem that is worth going back to watch. Although the film came out in 1955, most of it is still relevant today, if not more so with that whole “incel” junk online.
The film’s protagonist, Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine) is an Italian-American butcher living in present-day The Bronx. Anyone who knows Marty well enough is not able to get past how this 34-year-old man is still a bachelor, including his regular customers who often scold him with comments like “You should be ashamed of yourself!”
Wow, 1955 The Bronx. Tell us how you really feel!
Marty is not averse to the idea of getting married and starting a family but has become disheartened by the rejection of any woman he has pursued. Now convinced that he is “too ugly” to attract any member of the opposite sex, he has given up on marriage and has resigned himself to a life of bachelorhood.
Marty lives with his mother (Esther Minciotti) who, of course, is blind to her son’s social awkwardness and only sees his good-natured demeanor. She is convinced her son isn’t married because he isn’t trying hard enough. (Oh boy, I CAN relate!) To please her, Marty reluctantly heads out to a dance party where he meets, Clara (Betsy Blair).
Earlier in the evening, Clara was abandoned by her blind date who considered her to be plain, but she hits it off with Marty. But after Clara’s introduction to Marty’s mother goes awkwardly, and his friend’s critical judgment of her, Marty considers passing on having a relationship with her, and risks remaining in a rut of unhappiness.
I placed a Blu-ray copy of Marty on my wishlist before I finished watching it. The film has a lot of heart, so that spoke to me, but I also dug its social commentary on how society plays a role in our individual decisions. Marty’s friends busy themselves in their free time by looking at girls in magazines and talk about how Mickey Spillane creates the ideal women in his novels. None of these dudes is a prize themselves, but are waiting for the day when one of these women will fall into their lap. And boy, do they get sore when it looks like Marty is going to break free from them.
Marty’s Mom is another interesting character who takes a turn that I won’t spoil here. I loved the scene between her and Marty’s Aunt. They both speak of their aches and pains while trying to outdo each other on who “has it worse”. Both are in their 50s and acting as if they are in their 80s. If this movie hadn’t come out in 1955, I would have believed the writer planted a bug in my Nona’s kitchen 1985 and paraphrased a frequent discussion.
I was also impressed by the amount of night shooting done on location in The Bronx, something a bigger film in 1955 would have tried to fake.
After watching Marty with Sarah, she told me how it won four Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, and Borgnine earned one for Best Actor. Pretty cool for Hollywood to give a little film like this a boost since they usually go for the “bigger is better” ones. I’m sure all those awards were sweet at the time but no honour is greater than becoming #MarsApproved.