Guys and Dolls


2h 30m 1955
Guys and Dolls

Brief Synopsis

A big-city gambler bets that he can seduce a Salvation Army girl.

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Crime
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 1955
Premiere Information
World premiere in New York: 3 Nov 1955; Los Angeles premiere: 22 Nov 1955
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.; Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical Guys and Dolls , book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, produced on the stage by Cy Feuer and Ernest H. Martin (New York, 24 Nov 1950), which was based on the short story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" by Damon Runyon in Collier's (28 Jan 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 30m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (Western Electric Sound System) (magnetic prints), Mono (optical prints)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
13,405ft (20 reels)

Synopsis

Nathan Detroit, the financially strapped organizer of the oldest, established, permanent, floating crap game in New York, is trying to find a new venue, despite the scrutiny of police lieutenant Brannigan, who is determined to stop it once and for all. Nathan and his cohorts, Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet, are equally determined to get the game up and running again. Because of the "heat" from Brannigan, Nathan's only option for the site is the Biltmore Garage, whose owner is demanding a $1,000 advance. Nathan, who is so broke that he cannot afford to buy an anniversary gift for Miss Adelaide, his fiancée of fourteen years, sees a way out of his predicament when he hears that Sky Masterson, a gambler noted for making large and unusual bets, is having lunch in nearby Mindy's restaurant. After Nathan fails to entice Sky to bet on whether or not Mindy's sold more cheesecake or strudel the day before, he gets an idea when Sky boasts that he could take any woman he wanted with him to Havana the next day. Seeing the Save-A-Soul Mission band march by, Nathan bets Sky $1,000 that he will not be able to take the mission's leader, Sergeant Sarah Brown. Although Sky is chagrined that he has fallen for a "sucker bet," he goes to the mission and announces to Sarah and her uncle, Arvid Abernathy, that he is a sinner who wants to reform. She is attracted to Sky, but suspicious of his motives and not impressed by his ability to quote the Bible. Learning that the mission is having trouble attracting sinners, he gives Sarah his marker to deliver twelve bona fide sinners at their midnight prayer meeting in two days if she will go to dinner with him the next night. Sarah declines, but Sky refuses to take back his marker and tells her that he will pick her up at noon--because his favorite restaurant is in Havana. She assures him that she is only interested in "upright squares" but momentarily responds when he kisses her. That night, at the Hot Box Club, Adelaide, the club's star performer, tells Nathan that she will be getting a raise next week and will finally earn enough money for them to get married. Adelaide pressures Nathan with the news that her mother thinks they have been married for years and have five children. Just then Laverne, one of the club's dancers, chastises Nathan for luring her boyfriend into his crap game. Adelaide realizes that he again has gone back on his promise to give up the game and screams at him to get out. After Nathan leaves, Adelaide, who has been suffering from a chronic cold, reads a book on psychology that describes her symptoms as psychosomatic reactions to her uncertainty about Nathan. The next day, General Cartwright, Sarah's supervisor, tells her that their organization will have to close the New York branch because it has not attracted any sinners. Just then Sky arrives at the mission and asks Cartwright to give Sarah thirty-six hours to prove that the mission is a success. With Arvid's encouragement, Sarah looks at Sky's marker, and tells Cartwight she can guarantee that at least twelve sinners will be at the midnight prayer meeting the next night. In Havana, Sarah's prim demeanor is overcome after Sky orders her several milk drinks liberally flavored with rum. At a nightclub, she and Sky talk about love and soon begin to kiss. At another club, when a Cuban woman flirts with Sky and takes him onto the dance floor, she and Sarah start a fight that turns into a huge brawl. Later, when Sarah is sober, she admits to having fun, and after he tells her about the bet, says she does not mind. They arrive back in New York just before dawn, and as they near the mission, they hear police sirens. Nicely-Nicely, who has been dozing across the street, rushes into the mission and alerts dozens of gamblers, who pour out of the mission's back room, narrowly evading Brannigan and the police. An angry Brannigan accuses Sarah of knowing about the game. Although Sarah is incorrect in assuming that Sky is involved, he refuses to deny it. The next night, Sky goes to the Hot Box and sees Nicely-Nicely, who laments that Nathan has asked him to tell Adelaide that the elopement they planned is off. Sky volunteers to tell Adelaide, who knows Nathan is not coming because of a crap game. Sky tries to be sympathetic to her but leaves when she admonishes that he will know how bad she feels when someday he falls in love with the wrong person. At the mission, Arvid tries to convince Sarah that Sky had nothing to do with the crap game, but she admits that she was more worried thinking that someday it would be Sky running from the police. Just then, Sky and Nicely-Nicely arrive at the mission and remind her of the marker. She tells Sky that they are now even and leaves, but Arvid, knowing that Sarah is in love with Sky, tells him that he must make good on the marker or everyone in town will know he is a welsher. Meanwhile, in the city sewer, the crap game has been going on for twenty-four hours. Nathan and his friends want to quit, but Big Jule, a notorious hoodlum from Detroit, intimidates them and insists on playing with his own dice until he wins back his $25,000 loss. When Nathan sees that the dice have no spots, Big Jule claims he "knows" where the spots are and wins back everything, even Nathan's commission. Now Sky arrives and, after punching Big Jule and taking his gun, promises to do one roll of the dice betting all of the money against everyone coming to the midnight prayer meeting. He wins, and the men all go toward the mission. On the way, Nathan run into Adelaide at Mindy's. He assures her he loves her, but when he says he cannot elope right now and leaves, she sneezes and sobs. At midnight, Sarah tells Cartwright that she has failed, just before a large number of "sinners" arrive with Sky. He curtly asks Sarah for his marker and leaves after asking Nathan to keep the markers from the others during the prayer meeting. As Cartwright asks for testimony about their sins, the men reluctantly talk about the crap game until Nicely-Nicely stands up and expresses true conversion. When Brannigan arrives at the mission, he tells Cartwright that there had been a crap game at the mission the night before, but Sarah lies by saying it never happened. Nathan then privately tells Sarah about the $1,000 bet with Sky. When Nathan relates that Sky paid the bet after saying that Sarah did not go to Havana, she runs after Sky. Soon Times Square is decorated for a double wedding as Adelaide marries Nathan and Sarah marries Sky.

Videos

Movie Clip

Guys and Dolls (1955) - The Oldest Established Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) comiserates with pals Benny (Johnny Silver) and Nicely-Nicely (Stubby Kaye) who then join him in Frank Loesser's tune "The Oldest Established," in Guys and Dolls, 1955.
Guys And Dolls (1955) - On The Inskirts Dialogue from writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, via Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, from Damon Runyon's story, Salvation Army Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons) and gambler Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), just before their first song in Guys And Dolls, 1955.
Guys And Dolls (1955) - If I Were A Bell Big treat for Jean Simmons fans, as "Sergeant" Sarah Brown, with gambler Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) after their night out in Havana, Frank Loesser's If I Were A Bell, both actors recording their own vocals, from Guys And Dolls, 1955.
Guys And Dolls (1955) - I'll Know The first of the famous Marlon Brando vocals, as gambler "Sky Masterson," with Salvation Army sister Sarah (Jean Simmons, also doing her own singing) considering the romantic future with Frank Loesser's I'll Know, in Guys And Dolls, 1955.
Guys And Dolls (1955) - Have We Got A Bet? Sinatra (as "Nathan Detroit") and Brando (as "Sky Masterson") did not click, and Marlon is said to have caused Frank to eat tons of cheesecake in this, their first scene together, in Joseph L. Mankiewiez's Guys And Dolls, 1955.
Guys And Dolls (1955) - Adelaide Frank Sinatra (as "Nathan Detroit") with his one ballad, Frank Loesser's "Adelaide," sung to his fiancè (Vivian Blaine), which he chose not to sing fully in character, in the Samuel Goldwyn production of Guys And Dolls, 1955, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Genre
Comedy
Romance
Crime
Musical
Adaptation
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Nov 1955
Premiere Information
World premiere in New York: 3 Nov 1955; Los Angeles premiere: 22 Nov 1955
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.; Samuel Goldwyn Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical Guys and Dolls , book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, produced on the stage by Cy Feuer and Ernest H. Martin (New York, 24 Nov 1950), which was based on the short story "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" by Damon Runyon in Collier's (28 Jan 1933).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 30m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (Western Electric Sound System) (magnetic prints), Mono (optical prints)
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.55 : 1
Film Length
13,405ft (20 reels)

Award Nominations

Set Decoration

1956

Best Cinematography

1955

Best Costume Design

1955
Irene Sharaff

Best Score

1955

Articles

Behind the Camera (11/16)


Despite all the joyful cavorting on screen, the set of Guys and Dolls was marked by significant hostility. Brando and Sinatra did not get along at all, and the cast and crew were quickly divided between Brando's supporters (among them Mankiewicz and Jean Simmons) and Sinatra and his entourage. Eventually Brando and Sinatra spoke to each other only through intermediaries.

Shortly after signing to do the part of Nathan Detroit, Sinatra realized Brando's role was the more substantial and romantic one, and he quickly let his jealousy show. "Sinatra was snotty and very difficult, as he really didn't want to do "the role," supporting player Regis Toomey later said. "He can be very cruel and disagreeable. Joe [Mankiewicz] had an awfully hard time on that picture." Sinatra refused to perform his one ballad, "Adelaide," in character as the comic, Bronx-accented Detroit, turning on all his romantic crooner charm instead, and composer Frank Loesser was less than pleased with the star's turn in the comic "Sue Me" number. ("We'll do it my way or you can f**k off," he reportedly told Loesser.) When Brando pointed out to Mankiewicz that he should tell Sinatra how to sing his songs ("We can't have two romantic leads," Brando allegedly said), Mankiewicz refused. Brando swore never to work with him again - and he didn't. In 1959, Sinatra said his role in this picture was the only one he was ever disappointed with. "I wanted to play Masterson," he told Newsweek. "I mean nothing disparaging about Marlon Brando, but Masterson didn't fit him and he knew it."

The tension between the two male leads started right off. Brando approached Sinatra asking for help with musical numbers and suggesting they get together often and work on them. Sinatra told him he didn't go for "that Method crap" and refused. The singer resented Brando's acting style and what it represented, which was a major departure from the Hollywood glamour he had known. He referred to Brando as "Mumbles" and "the world╒s most over-rated actor." Sinatra also claimed he had been promised the part in On the Waterfront (1954) that won Brando the Oscar®.

Brando retaliated against Sinatra's hostility by saying, "Frank's the kind of guy, when he dies, he's going to heaven and give God a bad time for making him bald." He also antagonized Sinatra through his own exhaustive working methods. Sinatra was known throughout his career for refusing to rehearse and hating to do more than a single take. "I don't buy this take and retake jazz," he said. "The key to good acting on screen is spontaneity, and there's something you lose a little with each take." Brando's approach, however, was to discover something new with each take, working up to the character's rhythms and emotions. This drove Sinatra crazy, and Brando was soon using it against his co-star, doing an entire scene between them brilliantly, then blowing the last line, forcing a retake. In one scene, Sinatra had to eat cheesecake while Brando talked. Each new take brought Sinatra another piece of cheesecake. After eight takes he was feeling nauseated. When the ninth attempt was scrapped, Sinatra threw his plate to the ground, jammed his fork into the table, and screamed at Mankiewicz, "These f**king New York actors! How much cheesecake do you think I can eat?"

Working with Sinatra wasn't Brando's only challenge during production on Guys and Dolls. Although he worked very hard at the musical aspects, constantly working with voice coaches and choreographer Michael Kidd, Brando thought his voice sounded like "the mating call of a yak." He had to spend many hours in the sound studio recording his numbers over and over again. In the end, his songs were patched together from countless retakes for playback during shooting. Years later, he wrote in his autobiography, "They sewed my words together on one song so tightly that when I mouthed it in front of the camera, I nearly asphyxiated myself because I couldn't breathe while trying to synchronize my lips."

The hostility between Brando and Sinatra did not extend to the rest of the working relationships on the set. Simmons and Mankiewicz got along splendidly; in fact years later she said, "Yes, I was aware that he was in love with me, and I think I was with him, really, which I've never admitted to anybody." And Goldwyn was so pleased with Brando's behavior on screen and off, that he rewarded him with a brand new white Thunderbird, which Brando immediately began racing around the streets. In return, Brando went against his usual practice and agreed to do substantial publicity for the picture. However, his good intentions were short lived and after some initial appearances on behalf of the film, he eventually refused to do any additional promotion, stating "I've done enough for that white Thunderbird."

Mankiewicz had the highest praise for Michael Kidd's choreography. He was skeptical at first when Kidd wanted to stage the crap game as a big ballet but the choreographer's unique conception and execution of the number impressed everyone when it was finally screened.

Mankiewicz decided to strive for realism only in the characterizations but not the settings. There was no location shooting, no rear projection, only actors on highly stylized sound stages to comply with the feel of the play, which was subtitled "A Musical Fable of Broadway." Oliver Smith's sets emulated the playfully surreal look of the stage production, using some authentic touches then coloring them incongruously to set them off as non-naturalistic. Irene Sharaff's costumes, for which she received an Academy Award nomination, followed much the same pattern, exaggerating color and line within a mish-mash of period styles (the gangsters are clad in the styles of the 1920s, while Adelaide and the chorus girls are definitely out of a 1950s fantasy). Mankiewicz and Sharaff worked together to use costume as character cue, as in Sarah's nervous habit of opening the second button of her tightly cinched jackets, signaling her desire to be free of her prim existence.

Mankiewicz objected to Goldwyn's insistence the film be shot in CinemaScope, because of what the director called that format's "dollar-bill proportions," and he wasn't happy with the result. "When you've got to fill the CinemaScope screen, everything spreads out," he said later. "On that screen you had twice as many gangsters, twice as many twirls, and twice as many intricacies."

by Rob Nixon
Behind The Camera (11/16)

Behind the Camera (11/16)

Despite all the joyful cavorting on screen, the set of Guys and Dolls was marked by significant hostility. Brando and Sinatra did not get along at all, and the cast and crew were quickly divided between Brando's supporters (among them Mankiewicz and Jean Simmons) and Sinatra and his entourage. Eventually Brando and Sinatra spoke to each other only through intermediaries. Shortly after signing to do the part of Nathan Detroit, Sinatra realized Brando's role was the more substantial and romantic one, and he quickly let his jealousy show. "Sinatra was snotty and very difficult, as he really didn't want to do "the role," supporting player Regis Toomey later said. "He can be very cruel and disagreeable. Joe [Mankiewicz] had an awfully hard time on that picture." Sinatra refused to perform his one ballad, "Adelaide," in character as the comic, Bronx-accented Detroit, turning on all his romantic crooner charm instead, and composer Frank Loesser was less than pleased with the star's turn in the comic "Sue Me" number. ("We'll do it my way or you can f**k off," he reportedly told Loesser.) When Brando pointed out to Mankiewicz that he should tell Sinatra how to sing his songs ("We can't have two romantic leads," Brando allegedly said), Mankiewicz refused. Brando swore never to work with him again - and he didn't. In 1959, Sinatra said his role in this picture was the only one he was ever disappointed with. "I wanted to play Masterson," he told Newsweek. "I mean nothing disparaging about Marlon Brando, but Masterson didn't fit him and he knew it." The tension between the two male leads started right off. Brando approached Sinatra asking for help with musical numbers and suggesting they get together often and work on them. Sinatra told him he didn't go for "that Method crap" and refused. The singer resented Brando's acting style and what it represented, which was a major departure from the Hollywood glamour he had known. He referred to Brando as "Mumbles" and "the world╒s most over-rated actor." Sinatra also claimed he had been promised the part in On the Waterfront (1954) that won Brando the Oscar®. Brando retaliated against Sinatra's hostility by saying, "Frank's the kind of guy, when he dies, he's going to heaven and give God a bad time for making him bald." He also antagonized Sinatra through his own exhaustive working methods. Sinatra was known throughout his career for refusing to rehearse and hating to do more than a single take. "I don't buy this take and retake jazz," he said. "The key to good acting on screen is spontaneity, and there's something you lose a little with each take." Brando's approach, however, was to discover something new with each take, working up to the character's rhythms and emotions. This drove Sinatra crazy, and Brando was soon using it against his co-star, doing an entire scene between them brilliantly, then blowing the last line, forcing a retake. In one scene, Sinatra had to eat cheesecake while Brando talked. Each new take brought Sinatra another piece of cheesecake. After eight takes he was feeling nauseated. When the ninth attempt was scrapped, Sinatra threw his plate to the ground, jammed his fork into the table, and screamed at Mankiewicz, "These f**king New York actors! How much cheesecake do you think I can eat?" Working with Sinatra wasn't Brando's only challenge during production on Guys and Dolls. Although he worked very hard at the musical aspects, constantly working with voice coaches and choreographer Michael Kidd, Brando thought his voice sounded like "the mating call of a yak." He had to spend many hours in the sound studio recording his numbers over and over again. In the end, his songs were patched together from countless retakes for playback during shooting. Years later, he wrote in his autobiography, "They sewed my words together on one song so tightly that when I mouthed it in front of the camera, I nearly asphyxiated myself because I couldn't breathe while trying to synchronize my lips." The hostility between Brando and Sinatra did not extend to the rest of the working relationships on the set. Simmons and Mankiewicz got along splendidly; in fact years later she said, "Yes, I was aware that he was in love with me, and I think I was with him, really, which I've never admitted to anybody." And Goldwyn was so pleased with Brando's behavior on screen and off, that he rewarded him with a brand new white Thunderbird, which Brando immediately began racing around the streets. In return, Brando went against his usual practice and agreed to do substantial publicity for the picture. However, his good intentions were short lived and after some initial appearances on behalf of the film, he eventually refused to do any additional promotion, stating "I've done enough for that white Thunderbird." Mankiewicz had the highest praise for Michael Kidd's choreography. He was skeptical at first when Kidd wanted to stage the crap game as a big ballet but the choreographer's unique conception and execution of the number impressed everyone when it was finally screened. Mankiewicz decided to strive for realism only in the characterizations but not the settings. There was no location shooting, no rear projection, only actors on highly stylized sound stages to comply with the feel of the play, which was subtitled "A Musical Fable of Broadway." Oliver Smith's sets emulated the playfully surreal look of the stage production, using some authentic touches then coloring them incongruously to set them off as non-naturalistic. Irene Sharaff's costumes, for which she received an Academy Award nomination, followed much the same pattern, exaggerating color and line within a mish-mash of period styles (the gangsters are clad in the styles of the 1920s, while Adelaide and the chorus girls are definitely out of a 1950s fantasy). Mankiewicz and Sharaff worked together to use costume as character cue, as in Sarah's nervous habit of opening the second button of her tightly cinched jackets, signaling her desire to be free of her prim existence. Mankiewicz objected to Goldwyn's insistence the film be shot in CinemaScope, because of what the director called that format's "dollar-bill proportions," and he wasn't happy with the result. "When you've got to fill the CinemaScope screen, everything spreads out," he said later. "On that screen you had twice as many gangsters, twice as many twirls, and twice as many intricacies." by Rob Nixon

Guys and Dolls


Marlon Brando in a musical? Back in 1955, it seemed an unlikely proposition (and still a bit unbelievable today). The role of ace gambler and man-about-town Sky Masterson in the film version of Guys and Dolls (1955) was originally supposed to go to Gene Kelly, a musical star perfectly suited to the role. But Kelly's studio, MGM, wouldn't release him to work on the Sam Goldwyn production. And having paid a million dollars (against 10 percent of the picture's profits) to the owners of the rights to the hit Broadway play - even now a staggering figure for a story property - Goldwyn wasn't about to throw his project away on nobodies. He retained from the original stage cast Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully, and Johnny Silver in supporting roles, and Vivian Blaine in the key female second-lead of Adelaide (after Betty Grable was unavailable). But for his stars, Goldwyn intended to go all out. He and his director Joseph Mankiewicz - something of a superstar himself after a string of smash successes including A Letter to Three Wives (1949), All About Eve (1950), and The Barefoot Contessa (1954) - considered a number of big names (Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum) and some lesser ones (such as Tony Martin). Bing Crosby and Clark Gable pushed hard for the lead, and Goldwyn even considered for a moment casting the biggest comedy team of the era, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, as Sky and crap-game organizer Nathan Detroit.

In a way, getting Brando was something of a casting coup. In the mid-50s, Hollywood was divided more or less between two camps, those who sought to combat the threat of television and diminishing audiences by producing even bigger and splashier movies, and those who sought to bring gritty realism to the screen, intimate and challenging dramas that could beat TV at its own game. With Guys and Dolls audiences got an odd marriage of the two - the full-out mega-production of old-time producer Goldwyn with the Method brashness of Brando. The actor was reluctant at first, concerned about his ability to pull off a musical. But Mankiewicz, who had recently directed him as Antony in Julius Caesar (1953), greatly admired Brando's skills and convinced him by saying: "You have never done a musical; neither have I. We never did Shakespeare either."

For Nathan Detroit, Goldwyn gave in to Frank Sinatra's pleas for the part, against Mankiewicz's objections that the singer-actor was all wrong for the role (he wanted the theater original, Sam Levene). But with the Oscar winners Brando and Sinatra on the marquee Goldwyn was sure he'd have a hit. And to guarantee that further, he went after Grace Kelly for the part of the prim Salvation Army worker Sarah. When both she and Deborah Kerr turned it down, he went with his third choice, Jean Simmons, who had just appeared with Brando (as Napoleon) in Desiree (1954).

Mankiewicz and Goldwyn wisely decided not to tamper with the dialogue of the play, which had been a smash on Broadway. The word "Runyonesque" had already entered the language, and the filmmakers knew much of the charm of the piece depended on the quirky characters and idiosyncratic dialogue of Damon Runyon, from whose story, "The Idyll of Sarah Brown," the play was adapted. It concerned the efforts of Nathan Detroit, proprietor of "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York," to find a location for his latest venture. Needing $1,000 to secure a spot, he bets gambler Masterson that Sky can't get mission worker Sarah Brown to accompany him to Havana. The bulk of the story concerns the tangled efforts of Nathan to get his game going under the nose of the law; his dealings with his chorus girl girlfriend Adelaide, who wants him to give up gambling and settle down; and Sky's burgeoning relationship with Sarah.

The producers retained most of the hit songs from the stage version, although at least two ("My Time of Day" & "I've Never Been in Love Before") had to be thrown out to accommodate Brando's thin voice. But Runyon's characteristic dialogue - with not a contraction in the script - stayed intact.

Runyon created an entire world based on the denizens of New York's Broadway and Times Square areas, not a sharply realistic world by any means, but rather a fantasy Manhattan peopled by chorines, card sharps, hustlers, battle-ax wives, and easily duped cops. He used many of these characters over and over from story to story. In Guys and Dolls, Stubby Kaye does the show-stopping number "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" as the rotund Nicely Nicely Johnson. The same character appeared in the Henry Fonda-Lucille Ball movie The Big Street (1942), played by the equally portly Eugene Pallette.

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, based on the play by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling and the story by Damon Runyon
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Editing: Daniel Mandell
Production Design: Oliver Smith
Art Direction: Joseph Wright
Music: Frank Loesser, Jay Blackton
Cast: Marlon Brando (Sky Masterson), Frank Sinatra (Nathan Detroit), Jean Simmons (Sarah Brown), Vivian Blaine (Adelaide), Stubby Kaye (Nicely Nicely Johnson), Sheldon Leonard (Harry the Horse), Regis Toomey (Arvide Abernathy).
C-150m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Rob Nixon

Guys and Dolls

Marlon Brando in a musical? Back in 1955, it seemed an unlikely proposition (and still a bit unbelievable today). The role of ace gambler and man-about-town Sky Masterson in the film version of Guys and Dolls (1955) was originally supposed to go to Gene Kelly, a musical star perfectly suited to the role. But Kelly's studio, MGM, wouldn't release him to work on the Sam Goldwyn production. And having paid a million dollars (against 10 percent of the picture's profits) to the owners of the rights to the hit Broadway play - even now a staggering figure for a story property - Goldwyn wasn't about to throw his project away on nobodies. He retained from the original stage cast Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully, and Johnny Silver in supporting roles, and Vivian Blaine in the key female second-lead of Adelaide (after Betty Grable was unavailable). But for his stars, Goldwyn intended to go all out. He and his director Joseph Mankiewicz - something of a superstar himself after a string of smash successes including A Letter to Three Wives (1949), All About Eve (1950), and The Barefoot Contessa (1954) - considered a number of big names (Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, Robert Mitchum) and some lesser ones (such as Tony Martin). Bing Crosby and Clark Gable pushed hard for the lead, and Goldwyn even considered for a moment casting the biggest comedy team of the era, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, as Sky and crap-game organizer Nathan Detroit. In a way, getting Brando was something of a casting coup. In the mid-50s, Hollywood was divided more or less between two camps, those who sought to combat the threat of television and diminishing audiences by producing even bigger and splashier movies, and those who sought to bring gritty realism to the screen, intimate and challenging dramas that could beat TV at its own game. With Guys and Dolls audiences got an odd marriage of the two - the full-out mega-production of old-time producer Goldwyn with the Method brashness of Brando. The actor was reluctant at first, concerned about his ability to pull off a musical. But Mankiewicz, who had recently directed him as Antony in Julius Caesar (1953), greatly admired Brando's skills and convinced him by saying: "You have never done a musical; neither have I. We never did Shakespeare either." For Nathan Detroit, Goldwyn gave in to Frank Sinatra's pleas for the part, against Mankiewicz's objections that the singer-actor was all wrong for the role (he wanted the theater original, Sam Levene). But with the Oscar winners Brando and Sinatra on the marquee Goldwyn was sure he'd have a hit. And to guarantee that further, he went after Grace Kelly for the part of the prim Salvation Army worker Sarah. When both she and Deborah Kerr turned it down, he went with his third choice, Jean Simmons, who had just appeared with Brando (as Napoleon) in Desiree (1954). Mankiewicz and Goldwyn wisely decided not to tamper with the dialogue of the play, which had been a smash on Broadway. The word "Runyonesque" had already entered the language, and the filmmakers knew much of the charm of the piece depended on the quirky characters and idiosyncratic dialogue of Damon Runyon, from whose story, "The Idyll of Sarah Brown," the play was adapted. It concerned the efforts of Nathan Detroit, proprietor of "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York," to find a location for his latest venture. Needing $1,000 to secure a spot, he bets gambler Masterson that Sky can't get mission worker Sarah Brown to accompany him to Havana. The bulk of the story concerns the tangled efforts of Nathan to get his game going under the nose of the law; his dealings with his chorus girl girlfriend Adelaide, who wants him to give up gambling and settle down; and Sky's burgeoning relationship with Sarah. The producers retained most of the hit songs from the stage version, although at least two ("My Time of Day" & "I've Never Been in Love Before") had to be thrown out to accommodate Brando's thin voice. But Runyon's characteristic dialogue - with not a contraction in the script - stayed intact. Runyon created an entire world based on the denizens of New York's Broadway and Times Square areas, not a sharply realistic world by any means, but rather a fantasy Manhattan peopled by chorines, card sharps, hustlers, battle-ax wives, and easily duped cops. He used many of these characters over and over from story to story. In Guys and Dolls, Stubby Kaye does the show-stopping number "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" as the rotund Nicely Nicely Johnson. The same character appeared in the Henry Fonda-Lucille Ball movie The Big Street (1942), played by the equally portly Eugene Pallette. Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz Producer: Samuel Goldwyn Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, based on the play by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling and the story by Damon Runyon Cinematography: Harry Stradling Editing: Daniel Mandell Production Design: Oliver Smith Art Direction: Joseph Wright Music: Frank Loesser, Jay Blackton Cast: Marlon Brando (Sky Masterson), Frank Sinatra (Nathan Detroit), Jean Simmons (Sarah Brown), Vivian Blaine (Adelaide), Stubby Kaye (Nicely Nicely Johnson), Sheldon Leonard (Harry the Horse), Regis Toomey (Arvide Abernathy). C-150m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Rob Nixon

Quotes

Everybody in the whole world who hates me is now here.
- Nathan Detroit
One of these days in your travels, a guy is going to show you a brand-new deck of cards on which the seal is not yet broken. Then this guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you're going to wind up with an ear full of cider.
- Sky Masterson
I have been running the crap game since I was a juvenile delinquent.
- Nathan Detroit
Speaking of chronic conditions, happy anniversary.
- Miss Adelaide
I just acquired five thousand fish.
- Harry the Horse
Five thousand? If it can be told, where did you take on this fine bundle of lettuce?
- Nicely Nicely Johnson
I have nothing to hide. I collected the reward on my father.
- Harry the Horse
It is an advantage to have a successful father. Nobody ever wanted my old man for as much as five hundred.
- Benny Southstreet
For two weeks I gambled in green pastures. The dice were my cousins and the dolls were agreeable with nice teeth and no last names.
- Sky Masterson

Trivia

Vivian Blaine, Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully and Johnny Silver all recreated the roles that they had played in the original Broadway musical production.

The audio for each of Brando's musical numbers is constructed from multiple takes.

Marilyn Monroe wanted to play Adelaide, but director 'Joseph Mankiewicz' didn't want to work with her again and pretended he never got her phone messages

The songs "Pet Me Poppa" and "Adelaide" were not in the original musical, but were written for the screen version. In the musical, Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) doesn't sing in the number "Guys and Dolls." He was added for the film to increase Sinatra's singing part.

Betty Grable was in talks to play Adelaide but when she cancelled on the director to be with her sick dog, she was dropped.

Notes

Joseph L. Mankiewicz's onscreen credits reads, "Written for the screen and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz." The opening and ending cast credits differ slightly in order. Damon Runyon's "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" was later included in his short story collection Guys and Dolls (New York, 1931). Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls was a hit musical that ran over 1,200 performances after its November 24, 1950 Broadway opening, closing three years later on November 28, 1953. In addition to the original Broadway show, which starred Robert Alda as "Sky Masterson," the play was successful on the London stage and in a number of touring road companies throughout North America. According to the film's pressbook, the play grossed over $13,000,000 in the United States and $3,000,000 in Great Britain. Vivian Blaine, Stubby Kaye, Johnny Silver and B. S. Pully recreated their Broadway roles for the film. Choreographer Michael Kidd created the dance numbers for both the play and the film.
       Contemporary news items, studio press materials and feature articles in magazines provide the following information on the production: In July 1952, a Los Angeles Examiner article indicated that Paramount Pictures, which owned the rights to the original Damon Runyon short story on which the Broadway musical was based, was to produce a film adaptation to star Bob Hope as "Nathan Detroit" and Bing Crosby as Masterson. The article also mentioned that the studio had briefly considered Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis for the leads.
       According to Daily Variety and Variety news items in late January 1954, producer William Goetz acquired the rights to the play for a fee of $300,000, plus a percentage of the film's gross after it reached $4,000,000 in domestic distribution. At that time, the film was to be the first of three Goetz productions for Columbia Pictures. By early March 1954, news items in Hollywood Reporter and Daily Variety announced that Samuel Goldwyn was the top bidder for the rights, which he bought for $1,000,000 against ten percent of the picture's gross. That figure, which was widely reported in trade publications and confirmed in the film's pressbook, was the highest price paid to that time for motion picture rights.
       It has not been determined at what point Goetz was no longer involved in the project, although a March 14, 1954 Los Angeles Times article reported that Goldwyn "had out bidden all competitors, including William Goetz, who, apparently, reported acquisition of the rights prematurely." News items in February and March 1955 indicated that Goldwyn had been negotiating with both Paramount and M-G-M on distribution rights to the film, and would shoot the picture in the VistaVision widescreen process if Paramount was selected, but CinemaScope if M-G-M.
       A few days after a March 3, 1955 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Twentieth Century-Fox had agreed to allow Goldwyn to use CinemaScope lenses for the film, a New York Times article announced that Goldwyn planned to release Guys and Dolls under the M-G-M banner, his first, and only, association with that company since the 1924 merger of Metro Pictures and Louis B. Mayer Pictures with the old Goldwyn Company. The article also noted that Goldwyn would finance the film's $5,000,000 budget himself. Hollywood Reporter and Wall Street Journal articles on March 9, 1955 noted that the distribution deal would be an 80-20 split favoring Goldwyn. For the previous fifteen years, Goldwyn had released his films through RKO Radio Pictures, and his last production, Porgy and Bess (see below), was released through Columbia.
       Goldwyn announced the casting of Marlon Brando on August 1, 1954 and Jean Simmons on September 21, 1954. At that time, according to feature articles, it was assumed by many that the "non-singer" actors would have their voices dubbed for the film. In a modern television interview, Simmons stated that she and Brando also assumed they would be dubbed but were told by Goldwyn that, although they did not have good voices, they were "real." According to press materials, it was not revealed to the public until shortly before the film opened that Brando would do his own singing. Although some reviews commented on Brando's lack of singing expertise, most found his and Simmons' voices acceptable. In Saturday Review (of Literature), Hollis Alpert stated an opinion echoed by many critics: "...Brando can't really sing. But he has moments when he almost convinces you he that can...Simmons, on the other hand, can almost sing. She has a clear likable voice..."
       The long production schedule of the film ran from 14 March to July 9, 1955, including a shutdown from 10 June-20 June for rehearsals on the two "Hot Box" club numbers. Filming of the "Pet Me, Poppa" number took place from 7 July-9 July and concluded the lengthy 102 day rehearsal and shooting schedule of the production. According to the film's pressbook, the final budget for the film was "upwards of $5,500,000." Hollywood Reporter news items included the names of the following actors and dancers, whose appearance in the released film has not been confirmed: Gloria Rhoads, Jerry LaZarre, Jean Corbett, Betty Jean Hansen, Jane Fischer, Cecile Rogers, Virginia Aldridge, Lorraine Crawford, Carey Leverette, Clark Lee, Wilson Morelli, Lance Avant, Lynn Bernay, Carmen Clifford, Beth Carter, Jean Goddall, January Hollar and Alicia Krug.
       The picture, shot entirely on the Goldwyn lot in Hollywood, projected a very stage-bound look, with even most exteriors filmed on soundstages. According to the pressbook for Guys and Dolls, art directors Oliver Smith and Joseph Wright deliberately altered the letters on the neon signs in the large Times Square set so that no real companies would be identifiable, but that logos resembled those of familiar brands such as Pepsi-Cola. For several minutes after the end of the opening credits, there is no dialogue, only an unfolding of images of New York street life enlivened by dancing, music and sound effects. This sequence is followed by the picture's first song, "Fugue for Tinhorns."
       Several songs from the Broadway score were not included in the film: "My Time of Day," "I've Never Been in Love Before," "More I Cannot Wish You" and "A Bushel and a Peck," a production number performed at the Hot Box by "Miss Adelaide." "A Bushel and a Peck" was replaced in the film by Adelaide's "Pet Me, Poppa" number. Loesser wrote two new songs for the film, "Adelaide," sung by Frank Sinatra, and the romantic ballad "A Woman in Love," heard as both instrumental background and a song with Spanish lyrics sung by Renee Renor and English lyrics sung by Brando and Simmons in the film's Havana sequence. Although Brando sang "Luck Be a Lady" in the film, Sinatra later became associated with the song and recorded a version for his 1963 Reprise Musical Repertory Theatre album.
       The film retained much of the "Runyonesque" quality of the stage play, with the use of dialogue unique to Runyon's New York underworld characters. The film's pressbook included a glossary of popular Runyon terms such as "sucker bet," "marker" and "chump" to explain some of the film's dialogue. Several of the characters in the story were also featured in other Runyon stories, some of which have been adapted to film. The character "Nicely-Nicely Johnson" was also featured in the 1942, Irving Reis-directed RKO production The Big Street, and "Harry the Horse" appeared in the 1942, Albert S. Rogell-directed Universal release Butch Minds the Baby and the 1943 Universal film It Ain't Hay, directed by Erle C. Kenton (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50).
       Although many contemporary and modern sources refer to "Sarah Brown" as "Sister Sarah" of the Salvation Army, she was called "Sergeant Brown" in the film, and the Save-A-Soul Mission was a fictionalized representation of the Salvation Army. The restaurant featured prominently in the story, "Mindy's," was a fictionalized representation of Lindy's, a famous New York City restaurant noted for its cheesecake. The film's most famous line is uttered by Brando when Masterson realizes that Nathan Detroit has lured him into a sucker bet: "Daddy, I got cider in my ear." Modern sources add the following bit players to the cast: Franklyn Farnum, Tony Galento, Joe Gray, Sam Harris, Jack Perry, Frank Richards, Julian Rivero, Jeffrey Sayre and Harry Wilson.
       "The Goldwyn Girls" were featured in some of the early Goldwyn sound films, beginning with Whoopee! in 1930 (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1921-30) and had not been featured in many years. As publicity for the film, the six Goldwyn Girls went on a cross-country promotion tour and on October 9, 1955, the popular Ed Sullivan television show ran a 30-minute promotion of the film. According to a April 13, 1956 Daily Variety news item, Sinatra refused to appear with the rest of the cast on an April 1956 Sullivan program, contending that "TV is as much a business with him as motion pictures and he should be paid accordingly." The article continued that Goldwyn considered a gratis appearance to promote the picture as part of their contract and that a film clip of Sinatra in the picture would be used on the Sullivan program.
       According to various news items, the November 3, 1955 New York premiere of the picture benefited the Will Rogers Memorial Hospital and Tuberculosis Research Laboratories, while the November 22, 1955 Los Angeles premiere was held to benefit the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital. The film received several Academy Award nominations, including Cinematography (color, Harry Stradling), Art Direction-Set Decoration (color, Smith and Wright and Howard Bristol), Costume Design (color, Irene Sharaff) and Scoring of a Musical Picture (Jay Blackton and Cyril J. Mockridge). Although the film had premieres and road show engagements in November and December 1955, it was not given a wide national release until 1956. According to figures in the Motion Picture Almanac, it became the highest grossing film of 1956, taking in over $9,000,000 at the box office. In 1967, Goldwyn sold the first television broadcast rights to Guys and Dolls, Hans Christian Anderson and Porgy and Bess to ABC for $1,000,000 each, the highest price paid for broadcast rights to that time.
       Runyon's story was adapted for radio and broadcast on The Damon Runyon Theatre on February 6, 1946. Two successful Broadway revivals of the musical play have been staged: The first, in 1976, featured an all-African American cast and starred Robert Guillaume as Sky Masterson. The second, in 1992, starring Peter Gallagher and Nathan Lane, spawned both a London revival and a new North American road company production. In 2003, it was announced that Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, producers of the successful, recent screen adaptation of Chicago, would be making another screen adaptation of Guys and Dolls for Miramax Pictures, but, as of summer 2005, it had not been produced.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1996

Released in United States Fall November 1955

Released in United States March 13, 1989

Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival March 13, 1989.

Screen debuts for actors Stubby Kaye and Johnny Silver.

CinemaScope

Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "The Essential Brando" March 16 - April 7, 1996.)

Released in United States March 13, 1989 (Shown at San Francisco International Film Festival March 13, 1989.)

Released in United States Fall November 1955