Monday, 9 June 2014

Guys and Dolls (1955)



First things first: this is a musical, so if you are one of those soulless monsters who doesn't like musicals, you'll hate it.  For everyone else, it's pretty good fun.

Guys and Dolls introduces us to Nathan Detroit, the operator of the longest running illegal craps game in New York City.  Nathan's having great difficulty finding a place to run his latest game due to the police breathing down his neck, and he needs to find $1000 cash (quite a sum in the late 40s, which is when this is set) to secure a venue.

Enter Sky Masterson, a high-rolling gambler who'll wager on almost anything.  Nathan sees a chance to win the grand he needs, and suckers Masterson into a stacked bet: Masterson must persuade the straight-laced Sally Brown, member of the 'Save A Soul' association (a thinly disguised Salvation Army) to accompany him on a date to Havana Cuba, that very night.

Fortunately for Masterson (and, you know, for the movie actually continuing), Ms Brown has her own problems, and he might just be able to help her, if only she'll have dinner with him first ...

Naturally Masterson and Brown are going to fall in love in one night, split up over Masterson's duplicity, and then reunite at the end of the movie.  I sincerely doubt I'm spoiling anything by telling you that.  But the movie does a good job of making you want to see them get together, and of making their reasons for nearly splitting up more credible than they usually are in such fare.  It doubtless helps that they're played by Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons, both of whom turn in great performances, and bravely take on the singing duties of their respective roles.

The movie does have its flaws.  At nearly two and a half hours I think it is a bit too long.  And there's also the matter of the subplot involving Detroit's engagement to a night clubs singer.  You'll notice that I haven't mentioned that before now, and it's because frankly, it feels rather ancillary to the main narrative, which is very much about Masterson and Brown.

This is a fun romantic comedy musical, with some catchy numbers and a strong cast.  It's worth checking out.

Unless you're a soulless monster, that is :)

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