Customer Review

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No Little and Quite Some, October 12, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Guys and Dolls (DVD)
Was this really 1955? That soon after the Broadway run? It seemed so unconnected to the stage version at the time. Sure Sam Levine and Robert Alda, as Nathan and Sky, weren't going to translate to extra box office bucks. You knew they'd be scratched for the more bankable. But then, Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye weren't household names either. And it's their Broadway gloss and charm in this screen version that makes it so vivid. I recall there was mild interest at release in seeing what Brando could do, a sort of breath-holding waiting for him to fail. That he didn't wasn't enough to distinguish this as one of the great screen musicals of the '50s.
But times are different now. My 8-year-old is in love with Brando in this video version. And all evidence to the contrary, thinks his singing is wonderful. Her 5 year old sister thinks Jean Simmons' Sergeant Sarah Brown is beautiful-and therefore also wonderful-and they both love the music and Michael Kidd's muscular and strenuous choreography (the similarities to "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" are so obvious even they pointed it out!). It's a much better film than I remember.
Brando is Brando. You can't take your eyes off him. But he doesn't convince. His voice, well, he's on key and with electronic augmentation that thin voice sounds like he's belting them out. His dancing in the Cuba sequence and in "Luck Be a Lady" is athletic and, for that period, not awkwardly masked by dancing chorus. Looks to me that Simmons was synched in the tough numbers but did her own singing for "I'll Know When My Love Comes Along," but hey, she's Jean Simmons and that enough. Knowing today what we didn't know then of Sinatra's hangout buddies, his Nathan is more than a little soft-edged. My daughters kept recalling "Chip,"(or as they put it, "an older Chip") his lovable innocent in "On the Town," an odd sort of connection to make with a Broadway gambler.
Almost 50 years later, the real triumph is how Abe Burrows book and Frank Loesser's music still strike home. And the Damon Runyon characters are still fresh and funny. It's all so sprightly, so memorable! Even with Mankiewicz practicing the interfering and irrelevant direction he would perfect a decade later in "Cleopatra". And the question still persists: why in the world was "Bushel and a Peck" excised from the film?
Even so, a great movie for kids, and a great way to remember a time when families laughed at the same thing.
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