Guys and Dolls (film): Wikis


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Guys and Dolls

theatrical poster
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn
Written by Damon Runyon
Abe Burrows
Jo Swerling
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Ben Hecht
Starring Marlon Brando
Jean Simmons
Frank Sinatra
Vivian Blaine
Stubby Kaye
Regis Toomey
Music by Frank Loesser
Cinematography Harry Stradling, ASC
Editing by Daniel Mandell
Studio The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) November 3, 1955
Running time 150 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Guys and Dolls is a 1955 musical film starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine. The movie was made by the Samuel Goldwyn Company, released by MGM, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and produced by Samuel Goldwyn. The film is based on the Broadway musical by Frank Loesser, who composed the music and wrote the lyrics. The book was adapted by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows from The Idyll Of Miss Sarah Brown and Blood pressure, two short stories by Damon Runyon.[1]

Three new songs — "Pet Me Poppa", "(Your Eyes Are the Eyes of) A Woman in Love", and "Adelaide" — were written by Frank Loesser for the film (the last specifically for Sinatra), and five songs from the show — "A Bushel and a Peck", "My Time of Day", "More I Cannot Wish You", "I've Never Been In Love Before" and "Marry the Man Today" — were omitted from the movie.



Although there are detail differences between the stage and movie versions, the plot is essentially based around the activities of New York petty criminals and professional gamblers in the late 1940s.

Gambler Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) is under pressure from all sides: he has to organize an unlicensed crap game but the police, led by Lieutenant Brannigan (Robert Keith), are "putting on the heat". All the places where Nathan usually holds his games refuse him entry due to Brannigan's intimidating pressure. The owner of the Biltmore garage does agree to host the game provided Nathan pays him $1000 in cash in advance. The garage owner will not even accept a "marker" or IOU, he insists on having the money itself. Adding to Nathan's problems, his fiancée, Miss Adelaide (Vivian Blaine), a nightclub singer, wants to bring an end to their 14-year engagement and actually tie the knot. She also wants him to go straight, but organizing illegal gambling is the only thing he's good at.

Trying to obtain the money for the garage, Nathan meets an old acquaintance, Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), a gambler willing to bet on virtually anything and for high amounts. Nathan proposes a $1000 bet by which Sky must take a girl of Nathan's choosing to dinner in Havana, Cuba. The bet seems impossible for Sky to win when Nathan nominates Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), a straight-walking sister at the Save a Soul Mission (based on the Salvation Army) which opposes gambling.

Sarah herself has problems. She has been in charge of the Broadway branch of the Mission for some time now and no drunks or gamblers have come in to confess or reform. It's "a store full of repentance and no customers". To approach Sarah, Sky makes out that he is a gambler who wants to change. Sarah knows of his reputation and is suspicious: "It's just so unusual for a successful sinner to be unhappy about sin."

Hearing that Sarah's superiors are threatening to close down the Mission in order to concentrate their activities in other places, Sky suggests a bargain: he will get the sinners into the Mission in return for her having dinner with him in Havana. With little choice left, Sarah agrees.

Confident of his victory, Nathan has gathered together all the gamblers, among who is Big Jule (B.S. Pully), a Chicago mobster. When Lieutenant Brannigan appears and notices this gathering of "senior delinquents", Nathan's sidekick, Benny Southstreet (Johnny Silver) covers it up by claiming that they are celebrating the fact that Nathan is getting married to Adelaide. (Nathan is shocked by this, but is forced to play along). Later, when he sees the Save a Soul Mission band passing by and that Sarah is not amongst them, he collapses on the realisation that he has lost the bet. He has no money and nowhere to play the game and he is now committed to actually marrying Adelaide. (Nathan does love Adelaide but is rather uneasy about going straight, either maritally or lawfully.)

Over the course of their short stay in Cuba, Sky manages to break down Sarah's social inhibitions, and they begin to fall in love with one another. He even confesses that the whole thing was part of a bet but she forgives him as she realises that his love for her is sincere.

They return to Broadway at dawn and meet the Save a Soul Mission band which, on Sky's advice, has been parading all night. At that moment police sirens can be heard and before they know it the gamblers led by Nathan Detroit are hurrying out of a back room of the Mission! They took advantage of the empty premises to hold the game!

The police arrive too late to make any arrests but Lieutenant Brannigan finds the absence of Sarah and the other Save a Soul members too convenient to have been a coincidence, and implies that it was all Sky's doing: "Masterson, I had you in my big-time book. Now I suppose I'll have to reclassify you — under shills and decoys". His suspicions are passed on to Sarah who dumps Sky there and then, refusing to accept his denials.

In the meantime Sky has to make good his arrangement with Sarah to provide sinners to the Mission. Sarah would rather forget the whole thing, but Uncle Arvide Abernathy (Regis Toomey), who acts as a kind of father figure to her, warns Sky that "If you don't make that marker good, I'm going to buzz it all over town you're a welcher."

(A "marker" is slang for a debt that has to be paid off, while a "welcher" means someone who fails to repay that debt.)

Feeling that he has little to lose anyway, Sky lies to Nathan about succeeding in the original bet and pays him the $1000. Nathan has continued the game in a sewer. With his revolver at his side, Big Jule won't let the game break up until he has recovered all his losses, which seems unlikely since "Big Jule cannot make a pass to save his soul". Sky overhears this and makes a bold bet: he will play and if he loses he will give all the other gamblers $1000 each; if he wins they are all to attend a prayer meeting at the Mission.

The Mission is near to closing when suddenly the gamblers come parading in taking up most of the room. Sky won the roll! They grudgingly confess their sins, though they show little sign of repentance: "Well ... I was always a bad guy. I was even a bad gambler. I would like to be a good guy and a good gambler. I thank you." Even Big Jule declares: "I used to be bad when I was a kid. But ever since then I've gone straight, as I can prove by my record — 33 arrests and no convictions."

When Nathan tells Sarah that Sky denied winning the Cuba bet (which she knows he won), she hurries off in order to make up with him.

It all ends with a street double wedding, with Sky marrying Sarah, and Nathan marrying Adelaide (who is given away by Lieutenant Brannigan). They arrive in a food delivery van and leave in police cars, though this just seems to be an attempt at humour since Brannigan has been unable to find any witnesses against Sky and Nathan and their activities.


  • There is a suggestion that Nathan Detroit may be Jewish, due to his frequent use of Yinglish phrases, especially in the song "Sue Me" which includes "nu" (an interjection roughly meaning well, as of expectation), and turns of phrase such as "What can you do me?" and Gesundheit.
  • When "Angie the Ox" tells Nathan to guess who he saw having a "steak breakfast", Nathan sarcastically mutters "Hitler". Part of the sarcasm is that Hitler was a vegetarian.[2]

Casting the movie

Robert Alda had originated the role of Sky Masterson on Broadway in 1950. For the movie, Gene Kelly, then one of the screen's greatest dancers, at first seemed a serious candidate for the part. Instead it went to Marlon Brando, then one of the screen's greatest actors, possibly because MGM would not loan Kelly for the production, but more probably because Brando was the biggest box office draw at that moment. Ironically, the film ended up being distributed by MGM.[3]

Another contender for the part of Sky was Sinatra himself.[4 ] Sinatra had also been considered for the part of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront;[5] both roles went to Brando.

Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly were also considered for the parts of Adelaide and Sarah respectively. Mankiewicz refused to work with Monroe, probably as a result of his experiences while filming All About Eve, in which she had appeared.[4 ]

The musical scenes for Jean Simmons were sung by the actress herself (no ghost dubbing).[6]

Robert Keith plays police Lieutenant Brannigan, and one of his targets is Sky Masterson. Keith had matched wits with Brando before in the part of a sheriff facing Brando's reckless biker in The Wild One.


This film had been one of the few pre-1986 films not produced by Hal Roach that was merely distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. As a result, this film did not end up being owned by Turner Entertainment when they acquired the pre-1986 MGM library, but was instead owned by the new version of the Samuel Goldwyn Company that was founded in 1979. That company was sold to MGM in 1997, and thus this film is now back with original distributor MGM.


* Jerry Orbach made his film debut as a barber shop customer, singing one solo line during the musical number "The Oldest Established Permanent Floating Crap Game".[7]

Awards and nominations

In 2004, the AFI ranked the song Luck Be a Lady at #42 on their list of the 100 greatest film songs, AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs. In 2006 Guys and Dolls ranked #23 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.

Critical reception and commercial success

Guys and Dolls opened on November 3, 1955 to mostly good reviews. Casting Marlon Brando has long been somewhat controversial, although Variety wrote "The casting is good all the way." This was the only Samuel Goldwyn film released through MGM. With an estimated budget of over $5 million, it went on to gross in excess of $13 million. Variety ranked it as the #1 moneymaking film of 1956, netting a profit of $9,000,000.[9] Guys and Dolls went on to gross $1.1 million in the UK, $1 million in Japan, and over $20 million dollars globally.

See also


  1. ^ "Damon Runyon". Authors. The eBooks-Library. Retrieved 2008-07-20.  
  2. ^ Vegetarianism of Adolf Hitler
  3. ^ Guys and Dolls (1955/I) - Trivia
  4. ^ a b Guys and Dolls (1955/I) -Trivia
  5. ^ On the Waterfront (1954) - Trivia
  6. ^ Jean Simmons (I) - Biography
  7. ^ Jerry Orbach at Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ "NY Times: Guys and Dolls". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-22.  
  9. ^ Steinberg, Cobbett (1980). Film Facts. New York: Facts on File, Inc.. p. 22. ISBN 0-87196-313-2.   When a film is released late in a calendar year (October to December), its income is reported in the following year's compendium, unless the film made a particularly fast impact (p. 17)

External links

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