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USA 1955
Directed by
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
159 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Guys And Dolls

Art direction, set design, choreography, characterisation, story line and diction maintain the same artificial style in this film as the hit stage musical of the same name based on Damon Runyon stories with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. In general it is regarded as a poor relative of the stage production, lacking the former's energy with Mankiewicz unwisely naturalizing some of Runyon's distinctive dialogue style and substituting some of the original songs (`I've Never Been In Love Before", "My Time Of Day" and "More I Cannot Wish You") with lesser ones written especially for the film ("A Woman in Love", "Pet Me Poppa" and "Adelaide" were not in the original Broadway show).

Set in New York's Time Square of the early 1950s the story concerns a gambler, Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), who is challenged by would-be hustler Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) to take a Salvation Army missionary (Jean Simmons) to Havana where they fall for each other. Meanwhile Nathan is  trying to dodge the efforts of his long-term fiancee, Adelaide (Vivian Blane) to get him to get married and settle down, a running tongue-in-cheek dig at the burgeoning 1950s obsession with suburban conformity.

Although feeling decidedly overlong, particularly in the second half< for those who enjoy the artifice of musicals it's gorgeously colourful and as theatricalized in its depiction of Big Apple wise guys as West Side Story would be of its street gangs. It also provides the curious spectacle of Brando singing and dancing in a role that Mankiewicz had originally wanted for Gene Kelly. Incongrously, given Brando's vocal skills and largely for reasons of star-billing (Brando had just won an Oscar for On The Waterfront, a role which Sinatra had pursued unsuccessfully) Sinatra was cast as second banana to Brando and by all accounts the two stars did not get on. 




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