by Brad Nelson 11/19/13
Nominated for 4 Oscars. Blah Blah Blah. The short story is, this movie is every reason I’m skeptical of musicals.
Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) runs illegal crap games in New York. He’s desperately in need of a thousand smackers to start his next one, especially because some high-rollers are in town. So he bets Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) a thousand dollars that Brando can’t get the Salvation Army-like prudish missionary, Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), to go out to dinner with him (to Cuba, of all places). And then the fun and frivolity commence.
I wish. In short, this movie is too long by an hour (it runs for two-and-a-half hours), has few memorable songs (the noteworthy ones are “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and “Luck Be a Lady”), and its main parts are miscast. Frank is not good in the comic role, and Brando doesn’t work as a romantic crooner. Switch those two around, and you immediately improve this musical, although Brando doesn’t really do too bad as a singer. But Frank is definitely under-used.
Yes, the choreography is just spiffy. But it’s of the type I find bizarre or what I call “inappropriate dancing.” Some of the numbers you can imagine were envisioned in a bad LSD trip. Rather than being elegant, cute, kitschy, or clever, it’s just over-the-top for the sake of moving legs all over the place.
The highlight of this movie is Brando’s seduction of Sarah Brown. The scene where the two of them escape to Havana for the night is a welcome break from all the bustle and frenetic singing and dancing. In fact, you can quickly see where you can cut an hour out of this movie. Frank Sinatra’s character and relationship with his girl, Adelaide,” holds little or no interest. It’s just filler.
What charm this movie has is in Brando’s relationship with Jean Simmons and a song here and there that isn’t too bad. Perhaps the real star of this movie is the nostalgia-inducing sets, props, and old styles of 1955 New York, America. And if you’re looking for any depth or introspection regarding the theme of a criminal trying to seduce a social worker for a bet, you won’t find it here. This is all as thin as the skating surface of the Ice Follies.
But if musicals are your thing, you’re bound to love this just for the classic ambience. It does have that in spades. • (5407 views)