AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Delbert Mann (Dir)
Release Date:   Mar 1955
Production Date:   began 7 Sep 1954 in the Bronx, New York; began 1 Nov 1954 at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios
Duration (in mins):   89 or 93
Duration (in feet):   8,032
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Cast:   Ernest Borgnine (Marty [Piletti])  
    Betsy Blair (Clara [Snyder])  
    Esther Minciotti (Mrs. [Teresa] Piletti)  
    Augusta Ciolli (Aunt Catherine)  
    Joe Mantell (Angie)  
    Karen Steele (Virginia)  
    Jerry Paris (Tommy)  
    Frank Sutton (Ralph)  
    Walter Kelley (The Kid)  
    Robin Morse (Joe)  

Summary: One Saturday, Marty Piletti, a stocky, homely thirty-four-year-old Bronx butcher, dismisses the questions of his nosy customers, who want to know when he will get married now that the last of his younger siblings has wed. After work, Marty goes to Michael's restaurant, where he "hangs out" with his best friend Angie. With nothing to do that night, Angie urges Marty to call Mary Feeney, a girl they met a month before, but he refuses, saying that he is tired of looking for a girl. At his home, which Marty shares with his Italian-born mother Teresa, Marty's cousin Tommy and his wife Virginia complain that Tommy's mother Catherine is not getting along with Virginia, and ask Teresa if Catherine, her sister, can move in with her. Marty and Teresa agree, and Marty makes an appointment to talk with Tommy, an accountant, about the feasibility of buying his boss's butcher shop. Marty then calls Mary and asks her out, but she harshly rejects him. Later, during dinner, Teresa suggests that Marty go to the Stardust Ballroom, which, she has learned from Tommy, is "loaded with tomatoes." Although Marty laughs at first, he gets angry when she nags him and cries out that he does not have what women want. When she warns that he will die without a son, he yells that he is a fat, ugly man and does not want to get hurt anymore. Marty resigns himself to going, however, and at the ballroom, a man offers him five dollars to take home a blind date whom the man thinks is unattractive and boring. The chivalrous Marty, stating that the man should not treat a woman like that, demurs. The man finds someone else to accept, but the woman, Clara Snyder, a twenty-nine-year-old high school chemistry teacher from Brooklyn, announces that she will go home alone. She then walks out to the fire escape and when Marty kindly asks her to dance, she cries on his shoulder. While the couple dances, Marty assures her that she is not the "dog" she thinks she is and confesses that he has also suffered from rejection. As Marty and Clara walk from the dance hall, he surprises himself by talking excitedly about his life. He explains that because of the burdens of supporting his family, he could not attend college, but is buoyed by Clara’s declaration that being a butcher is not a bad job, and that if he wants to buy the butcher shop, he should. Clara then reveals that she has a chance to take an advanced position outside the city, and Marty advises her not to be afraid to leave her father and mother. Meanwhile, Teresa is visiting Catherine, who tells her how awful it is being an old widow, with no husband to cook and clean for, and ungrateful children who do not want her. Catherine warns Teresa, who is also a widow, that she will be in a similar position if Marty marries, and Teresa begins to reconsider her constant pressuring of her son. Marty takes Clara to his house, but sensing that she is nervous, offers to take her home. While helping her on with her coat, Marty impulsively tries to kiss her, but Clara pulls away. After Marty mournfully declares that he only wanted a kiss, the shy Clara confesses that she did not know how to handle the situation. As Marty sulks, Clara says she would like to see him again, calling him the kindest man she has met. They make plans to see a movie the next night, and when he also intimates that he wants to have a future with her, by asking her for a New Year's Eve date, they hug and kiss. Just then, Teresa returns and explains her sister's situation to Clara. Clara upsets Teresa when she asserts that she does not think it is good for parents to live with their married children and that they should not depend on their children for their happiness. While Marty is walking Clara to the bus, he runs into Angie, who, because he is angry that Marty left the ballroom without him, barely acknowledges Clara. After saying goodnight at Clara's door, Marty is exuberant. The next morning, Tommy and Virginia, arguing bitterly over his mother, arrive at Marty's with Catherine. Marty tries to ask Tommy about buying the store, but a distraught Tommy questions why Marty, a single man, would want to saddle himself with a mortgage and responsibilities. In the kitchen, Catherine tells Teresa that college girls such as Clara are "one step up from the street" and warns that Marty will soon suggest they move to an apartment, where Teresa will be just an old lady sleeping on a couch in her daughter-in-law's apartment. Just then, Marty comes in and, noticing some fallen plaster, casually suggests they sell the house. Just before Mass, a now-worried Teresa tells Marty not to bring Clara to the house again, saying there are plenty of nice Italian girls in the neighborhood. Later, at Michael's, Marty is disturbed to learn that Angie has been describing Clara as a “dog.” After his buddies, who quote novelist Mickey Spillane and gaze at girlie magazines, inform him that it is bad for his reputation to go out with "dogs," Marty gives in to peer pressure and does not phone Clara, despite his earlier anticipation of seeing her again. As he and his friends face another tedious night at Michael's, however, Marty explodes, calling them miserable, lonely and stupid. Marty then announces that if he continues to have good times with Clara, he will beg her to marry him. He then goes to call Clara, and when Angie follows, he asks his pal when he is going to get married. 

Production Company: Hecht-Lancaster Productions  
Distribution Company: United Artists Corp.  
Director: Delbert Mann (Dir)
  Paul Helmick (Asst dir)
  Mark Sandrich Jr. (Asst dir)
Producer: Harold Hecht (Prod)
  Burt Lancaster (Prod)
  Paddy Chayefsky (Assoc prod)
Writer: Paddy Chayefsky (Story and scr)
Photography: Joseph LaShelle (Photog)
Art Direction: Edward Haworth (Art dir)
  Walter Simonds (Art dir)
Film Editor: Alan Crosland Jr. (Ed supv)
Set Decoration: Robert Priestley (Set dec)
Costumes: Norma (Cost des)
Music: Roy Webb (Mus)
  George Bassman (Addl mus)
  Robert Carlisle (Mus eff ed)
Sound: John Kean (Sd rec)
  Roger Heman (Sd rec)
Make Up: Robert Schiffer (Makeup)
  Agnes Flanagan (Hair styles)
Production Misc: Betty Pagel (Casting supv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Songs: "Marty," music by Harry Warren, words by Paddy Chayefsky.
Composer: Paddy Chayefsky
  Harry Warren
Source Text: Based on the teleplay "Marty" by Paddy Chayefsky on Goodyear Television Playhouse (NBC, 24 May 1952).
Authors: Paddy Chayefsky

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Steven Productions 11/4/1955 dd/mm/yyyy LP4751

PCA NO: 17297
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  Widescreen/ratio: 1:85.1

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Domestic
Subjects (Major): Bachelors
  Italian Americans
  Mothers and sons
  New York City--Bronx
Subjects (Minor): Accountants
  Beauty, Personal
  Blind dates
  Catholic Church
  Dance halls
  Mickey Spillane
  The Ed Sullivan Show (Television program)

Note: The film's end credits feature footage of the characters with the actors' names superimposed. As noted by reviews, Marty was one of the first feature-length films to be based on a television play. The television production, which was directed by Delbert Mann and starred Rod Steiger, won the Donaldson and Sylvania awards for best drama. Author Paddy Chayefsky related in a NYT article that the character of "Marty" was based on a friend, "this lonely bachelor, a nice guy, not so young." In addition, Chayefsky had lived in the area of the Bronx where Marty is set and utilized his knowledge of the setting while writing the script. Chayefsky sold the film rights to Norma Productions (a subsidiary of Hecht-Lancaster Productions), because he wanted a small company to make the film and Norma co-owner Harold Hecht had once been his agent. Norma bought the screen rights in Jul 1953 and signed a deal in Feb 1954 for United Artists to release it. In a Jan 1956 NYT article, Chayefsky wrote that, during production, he was "consulted on every aspect of the picture, even those not relevant to the actual screen play." According to a Sep 1954 NYT news item, Chayefsky insisted that Delbert Mann also direct the picture, which marked his debut as a feature film director.
       Reviews made note of the fact that Marty was Ernest Borgnine's first major, sympathetic film role. According to the HR review, Norma co-owner Burt Lancaster had wanted to cast Borgnine, with whom he had made From Here to Eternity , in one of his company's pictures and after Hecht saw the television production, he concluded that Borgnine was right for the role. In the pressbook for the film, Hecht stated, "We departed from the old gambling with unknown names. They've been doing it in Europe and it pays off." Esther Minciotti, who played "Teresa" in the television production, reprised her role in the film. Augusta Ciolli and Joe Mantell also appeared in the original television production.
       Although HR news items include Glenn Strange, Doris Kemper, John Dennis, Marvin Bryan, Joe Bell, Silvio Minciotti and six-year-old Steven Hecht, son of producer Harold Hecht, in the cast, their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. A 26 Nov 1954 HR news item announced that actress Karen Steele would be making her screen debut in the picture, but she had previously appeared in several films. Location shooting on the picture was done in the Bronx, while interiors were shot in Hollywood at the Samuel Goldwyn studios. According to a 12 Nov 1954 HR news item, five students from the film division of the University of California, Los Angeles' College of Dramatic Arts were going to "attach themselves" to the production of Marty at the Goldwyn Studios and "follow progress of the picture to its windup." At the end of production, the students were scheduled to "shoot their own interpretation of a key scene, using the film's cast and crew," which would then earn them college credits toward a master's degree.
       News items stated that the film had a negative cost of $343,000, though Var noted that "there is no evidence of any stinting in the production values, a factor the industry will note." A year after its release, the company had spent over $400,000 on advertising, according to HR . A special trailer, featuring co-producer Lancaster, was made for Marty , in which Lancaster introduced the characters and discussed the story.
       The film opened in New York at the Sutton Theatre, traditionally, according to Var , "an outlet for offbeat and 'art' merchandise." In other areas, according to a NYT article, the film was screened intensely two weeks prior to its opening for community "opinion-makers," including ministers, shopkeepers and physicians. Many reviewers commented on the universal appeal of the film's story. HR stated, "The story is a genre study of second generation and foreign-born Americans. It has the sharp true observation of life that was to be found in Studs Lonigan without its bitterness...the film offers opportunities for recognition and self-identification that should appeal to almost everybody." While the film did little business in some areas, including Memphis, New Orleans and Bridgeport, within six months, it had branched out to 500 theaters and had grossed $800,000.
       Marty won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Writer. In addition, it received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Joe Mantell), Best Supporting Actress (Betsy Blair), Best Art Direction (black and white) and Best Cinematography (black and white). The film received best picture and actor honors from both the New York Film Critics and the National Board of Review, and was the first American film to win the Golden Palm grand prize at the Cannes Film Festival. As of 2003, Marty was the only film to win both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Golden Palm. The picture also won the Catholic Grand Prize at Cannes, which, according to a 12 May 1955 HR news item, would mean at least an additional $100,000 in box-office receipts in Italy and Spain. According to a 23 Mar 1956 HR news item, United Artists expected approximately 5,000 rebookings of the film due to the attention it garnered through its Academy Award wins. The studio ordered 200 extra prints of the film to be struck to supply the demand.
       Sergei Yutkevich, a Russian film director on the jury at Cannes, stated in a Pravda review, "It truly depicts the life of simple folk in America." The film opened in Moscow on 10 Nov 1959 as the first in a series of ten American films purchased by the Soviet Union as part of a cultural exchange with the U.S. According to NYT , Marty was the first major U.S. film to be screened there following World War II.
       In Oct 1996, Var reported that a musical version of Marty , starring Jason Alexander, was being prepared for a Broadway opening during the 1998-99 season, but Alexander eventually dropped out of the project due to other commitments. On 30 Oct 2002, the musical Marty , with book by Rupert Holmes (based on Chayefsky's screenplay) and music and lyrics by Lee Adams and Charles Strouse, opened in Boston. Directed by Mark Brokaw, the musical starred John C. Reilly as Marty and Anne Torsiglieri as "Clara." 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   26 Mar 1955.   
Box Office Digest   31 Oct 1955.   
Cosmopolitan   May 1955.   
Cue   16 Apr 1955.   
Daily Variety   21 Mar 55   p. 3.
The Exhibitor   6 Apr 55   p. 3945.
Film Daily   21 Mar 55   p. 6.
Harrison's Reports   26 Mar 55   p. 51.
Hollywood Citizen-News   16 Jul 1955.   
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jul 1953   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Apr 1954   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Sep 1954   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Sep 1954   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   6 Oct 1954   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Oct 1954   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Oct 1954   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Oct 1954   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Nov 1954   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Nov 1954   p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Nov 1954   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Nov 1954   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jan 1955   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Mar 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Apr 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   3 May 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   11 May 1955   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 May 1955   p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter   20 May 1955   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Jun 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Jul 1955   pp. 5-10.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Jul 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Nov 1955.   
Hollywood Reporter   29 Nov 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Dec 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Dec 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Dec 1955   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Jan 1956   pp. 1-2.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jan 1956   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   24 Jan 1956   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jan 1956   p. 1, 13.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Mar 1956   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   13 Mar 1956   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Mar 1956   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Mar 1956   p. 1, 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Nov 1959.   
Los Angeles Times   20 Feb 1955.   
Motion Picture Daily   21 Mar 1955.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   26 Mar 55   p. 377.
New Yorker   23 Apr 1955.   
New York Times   20 Sep 1953.   
New York Times   8 Feb 1954.   
New York Times   12 Sep 1954.   
New York Times   10 Apr 1955.   
New York Times   12 Apr 55   p. 25.
New York Times   17 Apr 1955.   
New York Times   31 May 1955.   
New York Times   14 Sep 1955.   
New York Times   8 Jan 1956.   
New York Times   11 Nov 1956.   
New York Times   13 Nov 1956.   
Saturday Review   26 Mar 1955.   
Time   19 Mar 1956.   
Variety   11 Nov 1953.   
Variety   23 Mar 55   p. 3, 6, 15.
Variety   17 Oct 1996.   

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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