' ' Cinema Romantico: Marty

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Upon watching "Marty", the Oscar winner for Best Picture in 1955, and #5 on my list of Twelve Movies I Need To See, in which a lonely butcher (Ernest Borgnine, who won the Oscar for Best Actor) who still lives with his mother, happens to a meet a just-as-lonely schoolteacher named Clara (Betsy Blair) as they take the tentative first step toward a possible romance, I realized this film needed to be re-made right away. So no sooner did I mail the DVD back to Netflix than I was on the phone with an exec from Paramount pitching my idea.

The exec (he asked me not to give his name) liked the idea but decided a few changes were in order before giving it the proverbial green light.

1.) He instantly decided the remake needed someone more comically inclined to play the lead, allowing for more wacky hijinks to ensue. "Wacky hijinks?" I asked, slightly taken aback. But the exec ignored me and declared, "Kevin James it is! He's a lovable schlub, but a slap-sticky schlub."

2.) While the exec stressed he "appreciated" Betsy Blair's performance in the original, he decided a more "glamorous" actress was necessary to portray Clara. "Well-" I started, only to be cut off by the exec bellowing "Reese Witherspoon! We'll put her in some frumpy clothes, maybe a pair of horn-rimmed glasses, but because she'll still look like Reese Witherspoon it won't hurt the box office." This time I couldn't even manage one word because the exec was already saying....

3.) "We need someone capable of producing more laughs for Marty's mother. You know, to play off Kevin James." "More laughs?" I asked, my neck cramping. After a brief debate the exec decided on Elaine Stritch (who plays Alec Baldwin's mother on "30 Rock"). "Perfect!" I said, finally a little relieved. "She was raised a Catholic which means she'll be able to really get a hold on the film's addressing of Catholicism." "Catholocism?!" thundered the exec. "No, no, no, we're completely cutting the religious angle. In fact, the Sunday morning in the film when everyone's getting set to go to mass, we're changing mass to brunch." "That just seems...." I trailed off, leaving the exec a window to climb through and continue.

4.) The exec saw "what they were going for" in the scene where Clara's blind date at the ballroom offers Marty five dollars to pose as an old army buddy and take her off his hands only to have Marty turn the jerk down and then approach Clara after the blind date pays another guy to do the same thing but decided it would be more "humorous" if in the remake Marty agrees to pose as the old army buddy and falls in love with Clara that way. "Then, " explained the exec, "we have the zany misunderstanding angle to play off of! When Clara meets Marty's best friend, Angie, he can have Angie pretend to have been in the navy, too, except, of course, Angie accidentally spills the beans which could drive Clara away and then lead Marty to have to win back her hand." "Isn't the zany misunderstanding angle a little overdone?" I asked. But the exec was already thinking about how....

5.) He wants to change the ballroom location to a swank club instead. He plans to cast Paul Ruud as Angie and he can introduce Marty to the world of club-hopping. "That way", the exec told me, "we can work in a Fergie cameo." Bewildered, I cried out, "A Fergie cameo?!" But the exec had already moved on to...

6.) The end, when Marty simply decides to call Clara on the phone over the objections of his mother and friends. "It won't cut it," the exec decided. He wants Marty to run through the streets (preferably during a rainstorm) to her house and declare his love from the porch. After all, the remake has to end with the money shot - a lover's embrace. And while Marty's running the exec plans to put Fergie on the soundtrack. A cover of Tom Petty's "Running Down A Dream". "Running Down A Dream?" I repeated, my head spinning. "Sure," said the exec. "Marty's running down his dream? Get it?" At that point I threw my phone into a nearby ravine, but it was too late. The next morning I saw the "Marty" remake was a go picture.

And all of this is to say that I greatly enjoyed "Marty". I enjoyed it because it felt very real. The ebbs and flows of the movie seemed based on the characters themselves not what the moviemakers were telling them to do. Which means that all of this is also to say a movie like "Marty" is probably never going to be made in Hollywood ever again.


Wretched Genius said...

You had me at "Owen Wilson and a dolphin."

Anonymous said...

Kevin James running through the rain to Reese Witherspoon while Fergie covers Tom Petty? With Paul Ruud is in it?!

And, really, if you just give up the notion of this being a re-make (thereby not having to pay the screenwriter and producer from the original), this sounds like a winner. Nick, I'm gonna need this on my desk by Thanksgiving.