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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 New York Times 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 July 1953 and signed a deal in February 1954 for United Artists to release it. In a January 1956 New York Times 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 September 1954 New York Times 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 Hollywood Reporter 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 pattern...by 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 Hollywood Reporter 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 November 26, 1954 Hollywood Reporter 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 November 12, 1954 Hollywood Reporter 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 Variety 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 Hollywood Reporter. 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 Variety, "an outlet for offbeat and 'art' merchandise." In other areas, according to a New York Times 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. Hollywood Reporter 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 May 12, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item, would mean at least an additional $100,000 in box-office receipts in Italy and Spain. According to a March 23, 1956 Hollywood Reporter 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 November 10, 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 New York Times, Marty was the first major U.S. film to be screened there following World War II.
In October 1996, Variety 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 October 30, 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."