Marty (1955) in Two Phone Calls
Ernest Borgnine deservedly won the 1956 Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar for his portrayal of lovelorn butcher Marty Piletti. The film focuses on Marty’s struggles as his customers, family and friends all question when the 34-year-old will marry as the last unmarried son in his family.
Two scenes showcase Borgnine’s brilliant performance and encapsulate the emotional journey of Marty (1955) perfectly. Both scenes are phone calls where the audience only experiences one side of the conversation—that of Marty.
The first scene features a phone call Marty places at the behest of his best friend Angie to set up a double date for them. Reluctantly, Marty calls Mary Feeney. It’s apparent at the outset that Mary doesn’t remember Marty. He goes on and on to detail where they met and to describe himself as “the stocky one, the heavyset fella.” One minute and 30 seconds into the scene, Marty closes his eyes and for the next 30 seconds the conversation continues with Mary rejecting both the date and him. Marty’s face—eyes closed—is a raft of emotions for those 30 seconds, demonstrating a palpable depth of emotion. Marty’s frustration, exasperation, embarrassment, loneliness, anger and depression converge as he hangs up the phone.
The second scene and the final two minutes of the film features another phone call. Marty is outside the local hangout surrounded by his friends who are discussing what to do that evening. Twenty-five seconds into the scene Marty closes his eyes listening to the familiar banter of his buddies as they try to make plans in a chorus of “What do you feel like doing tonight? I don’t know. What are you doing? I don’t know.” As Marty takes it in, his jaw clenches as he processes the all-too-familiar conversation. When attention turns to him, it’s clear he’s had enough, and he rushes inside the diner. Making his way to the phone booth he lets go, speaks out, and stands up for himself. He knows what he wants and is determined to get it—despite what everyone else thinks. He places a call to Clara, his newfound love interest. Marty’s resolve, determination, confidence, excitement and happiness converge as he dials the phone.
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