Screened as part of Autumn Events 2013
Frank Loesser’s boisterous, tune-filled adaptation of stories by Prohibition era newspaper man and humourist Damon Runyon is one of the wonders of the Broadway musical, gloriously uninhibited by sentimentality or cant. Big stakes gambler Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando) pursues no-nonsense Salvation Army Sister Sarah Brown (lovely Jean Simmons) for a bet. Meanwhile nightclub chanteuse Miss Adelaide (Broadway star Vivian Blaine) presses another gambling man, longstanding fiancé Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra, naturally nonchalant) to name the day.
Producer Sam Goldwyn’s stellar 1955 adaptation of the Broadway hit was seen as rashly unconventional in the day. Writer-director Joe Mankiewicz (All About Eve) had never directed a musical, and Brando and Simmons, though noted for their smouldering chemistry in the 1954 Desiree, were hardly noted for their singing voices. Sinatra and Blaine were much easier choices for the public to swallow. It was a hit regardless and it seems an ingenious and highly entertaining concoction these several decades (and countless stage revivals) later.
“Guys And Dolls is pretty much the most foolproof of the great musicals… Composer-lyricist Frank Loesser’s vigorous, colourful, character-full tunes are rich with Runyonesque flavour… Poor indeed is the performer who can’t bring an audience to its feet with showstoppers like “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat.”
…Marlon Brando as a singer is charmingly weedy, but he has the only thing without which you cannot be Sky – sexy charisma. Frank Sinatra seethed at not being cast as Sky, but grudgingly got on board when Mankiewicz bolstered crap game-promoter Nathan Detroit’s story – and he played it great…. Choreographer Michael Kidd’s athletic ballets and Havana hanky-panky contribute to the great, vibrant fun this picture always is.” — Angie Errigo, Empire