Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Marty (1955)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Marty (1955)

In director Delbert Mann's Best Picture-winning heart-warming romance drama - it was a poignant and simple character study, and a modest, black and white film in an era of widescreen color epics; its critical acclaim and box-office success were phenomenal. It was the second Best Picture Oscar-winning film to also win the top prize (known as the Golden Palm (Palme d'Or)) at Cannes. [Note: It was a very different role for the Oscar-winning Borgnine, compared to two other recent 1950s roles as menacing, sadistic villains or murderous 'heavies' in From Here to Eternity (1953) and Bad Day at Black Rock (1955).]

The film's screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky transformed his own original teleplay into a successful major motion picture - and the modest film remains one of the best examples of the cinematization of a television play. (The TV comedy-drama was originally presented on NBC-TV's "Philco-Goodyear Playhouse" series in late May of 1953, with leads Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand, during a period now recognized as the "Golden Age of Television.") As a feature film, it was one of the biggest 'sleepers' in Hollywood history, from the independent production company of Harold Hecht and actor Burt Lancaster:

  • the plot followed the despairing and lonely life (over a 36 hour period) of 34 year-old Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine in an Oscar-winning performance) - an ordinary, burly, heavy-set, overweight Bronx butcher who still lived with his love-smothering, widowed Italian Catholic mother Theresa Piletti (Esther Minciotti); he was the last of six children (and the only unmarried bachelor in the family), and although intellectually smart and a responsible worker, he had always been unpopular romantically; he had aspirations to purchase his boss's butcher shop
  • Marty often had recurring conversations when hanging out with his best friend Angie (Joe Mantell) at Michael's Restaurant about their endlessly boring and aimless plans for most evenings: Angie: "What do you feel like doing tonight?" Marty: "I don't know, Ange. What do you feel like doing?"
  • Marty tried to set up a phone date with a girl named 'Mary Feeney' that he had met a month earlier, but quickly revealed how awkward, forgettable and unappealing he had become: ("Oh, hello there. Is this Mary Feeney? Hello, there. This is Marty Pilletti. I-I wonder if you recall me. Well, I'm kind of a stocky guy. The last time we met was in the RKO Chester. You was with a friend of yours, and I-I was with a friend of mine, name of Angie. This was about a month ago")
  • when he realized that he was again receiving the typical rejection and brush-off, Marty gave up: ("Why, I know it's a little late to call for a date, but I didn't know myself till - yeah, I know. Yeah, well, what about - well, how about next Saturday night? Are - are you free next Saturday night? Well, what about the Saturday after that? Yeah. Yeah, I know. Well, I mean, I understand that. Yeah. Yeah")
  • when Marty's overbearing mother kept goading, nagging and pressuring him to get married, he frustratingly confessed to her that he was an unwanted "fat ugly man" and didn't want to be hurt and rejected again: ("Ma, sooner or later, there comes a point in a man's life when he's gotta face some facts. And one fact I gotta face is that, whatever it is that women like, I ain't got it. I chased after enough girls in my life. I-I went to enough dances. I got hurt enough. I don't wanna get hurt no more. I just called up a girl this afternoon, and I got a real brush-off, boy! I figured I was past the point of being hurt, but that hurt. Some stupid woman who I didn't even want to call up. She gave me the brush. No, Ma, I don't wanna go to Stardust Ballroom because all that ever happened to me there was girls made me feel like I was a-a-a bug. I got feelings, you know. I-I had enough pain. No thanks, Ma!...Blue suit, gray suit, I'm just a fat, little man. A fat ugly man...Ma, leave me alone. Ma, whaddya want from me? Whaddya want from me? I'm miserable enough as it is")
  • at the end of the conversation after endless pressure, Marty finally relented to his mother: ("All right, so I'll go to the Stardust Ballroom. I'll put on a blue suit, and I'll go. And you know what I'm gonna get for my trouble? Heartache. A big night of heartache"), and agreed to be resigned to dragging himself to the Stardust Ballroom on a Saturday night
  • at the Stardust, Marty happened to meet a kindred soul - another homely wallflower, a 29 year-old mousy Brooklyn high school chemistry teacher Clara Snyder (Betsy Blair) who had just been abandoned by her own blind date for being unattractive and boring; their relationship slowly developed during the evening beginning with a dance they shared together
  • Marty experienced empathic reactions to like-minded Clara, including admitting that he also cried all the time about being rejected as a "dog": ("I cry a lot too. I'm a big crier...I cry all the time. Any little thing. All my brothers, my brothers-in-law - they're - they're always telling me what a good-hearted guy I am. You don't get to be good-hearted by accident. You get kicked around long enough, you get to be a - a real professor of pain. I know exactly how you feel. And I also want you to know that I'm having a very good time with you right now and really enjoyin' myself. You see, you're not such a dog as you think you are")
  • and then Marty repeated his assertions about her when he referred to his own repeated rejections and ugliness: ("You see, dogs like us, we ain't such dogs as we think we are")

Dancing With Clara at the Stardust Ballroom: "Dogs like us, we ain't such dogs as we think we are"

Leaving the Stardust Ballroom Together

Marty's Late Night Conversation at Luncheonette With Clara About His Butchering Profession

Clara's Rejection of Marty's Good-night Kiss in His Home

A Gentle Kiss and a Hug

Marty and Clara Speaking to Marty's Mother
  • after leaving the dance hall and going to a luncheonette for coffee, the two engaged in very realistic and honest conversation; each confided and excitedly spoke about their life's hopes and dreams, especially Marty's plans to purchase the butcher shop where he worked; Clara also explained how she was afraid of moving out of her parents' home to become independent and take a different position outside of Brooklyn in Port Chester (NY)
  • in one of the film's most painful sequences, Clara rejected Marty's impulsive good-night kiss attempt when they briefly stopped at his home, and he responded curtly to her: ("All right, all right, I'll take ya home. All I wanted was a lousy kiss"), but then she smoothed his feelings by admitting that she liked him after sharing so much together, but had her own insecurities about how to handle a kiss: ("I'd like to see you again - very much. The reason I didn't let you kiss me was because I just didn't know how to handle the situation. You're the kindest man I ever met. The reason I tell you this is because I want to see you again - very much. I know that when you take me home I'm just going to lie on my bed and think about you. I want very much to see you again"); but then as they prepared to leave the house, they gently kissed and hugged
  • they were interrupted by the arrival of Marty's mother, who instantly wanted to engage them in conversation, and became worried about Marty's date - Clara was the first girl that he had brought home in a long time - and she was concerned about the impact of losing her influence over her son; Mrs. Piletti lamented being left alone, like her sister, with nothing to do but wait for death; Clara upset Mrs. Piletti by giving her opinion about parents living with their children: "Well, I don't think a mother should depend so much upon her children for her rewards in life"
  • later, in front of her house as he said goodnight to Clara, Marty promised to call her to confirm a date for the following evening
  • in the touching film's concluding sequence on Sunday at about 8 pm, Marty was able to overcome the oppressive fears of his mother about being abandoned, and biased misgivings expressed by Angie and other friends and relatives; at first, he had postponed calling Clara in the afternoon - who was sitting at home with her parents watching TV and awaiting his call, sensing that her phone might never ring
  • ultimately, Marty put aside his doubts about his changing life, peer pressures to not date Clara, and cruel critiques of Clara as a "dog"; he courageously and defiantly defended his love for Clara to his friends during another boring and tedious Sunday afternoon and evening at home and at Michael's Restaurant; he hinted that he might soon be asking Clara to get married, and having a date with her on New Years: ("Miserable and lonely and stupid! What am I, crazy or something? I got somethin' good here. What am I hangin' around with you guys for?...You don't like her. My mother don't like her. She's a dog. And I'm a fat, ugly man. Well, all I know is I had a good time last night. I'm gonna have a good time tonight. If we have enough good times together, I'm gonna get down on my knees. I'm gonna beg that girl to marry me. If we make a party on New Year's, I got a date for that party. You don't like her? That's too bad")
  • at the restaurant, the determined Marty decided to make his promised phone call (in a phone booth) to Clara to plan a movie date so that they could get together again; after dialing, he turned to Angie and asserted: "Hey Ange, when are you gonna get married? You oughta be ashamed of yourself. You're thirty-three years old and your kid brothers are married. You oughta be ashamed of yourself"
  • Marty (and Clara) chose to be liberated and triumphant over their respective limitations; he shut the booth's door on his friend Angie as the film ended and he began to speak to Clara: ("Hello...Hello, Clara?")

34 Year-Old Butcher Marty Piletti (Ernest Borgnine)

Marty With Best Friend Angie (Joe Mantell): "What do you feel like doing tonight?"

Marty's Mother Theresa Piletti (Esther Minciotti)

Marty Phoning Mary Feeney For a Date And Receiving a Brush-Off

Marty Telling His Mother Mrs. Piletti About Problems With Dating - "A big night of heartache"

Clara Snyder (Betsy Blair)

Marty Comforting Clara After She Was Dumped by Her Blind Date

On Sunday Afternoon, Marty Had to Endure Criticisms From His Friends About His Date With Clara

Clara Sadly Awaiting Marty's Delayed Phone Call Sunday Evening

Marty's Sudden Realization: "What am I hangin' around with you guys for?"

Ending Sequence - Marty's Return Phone Booth Call: "Hello...Hello Clara?"


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