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Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra), runs an illegal floating craps game (the game is held at different venues each night, to stop the police catching them gambling), in New York City.  To raise the $1000 needed to pay a man for a room in which to hold the game, Nathan bets Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), a man who is known to take a gamble on just about everything, that he (Sky) can’t get a woman of Nathan’s choosing to go to Havana with him.  The woman Nathan chooses is Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), a prim and proper Sergeant in the Save-A-Soul Mission.  Nathan takes the bet, but when he goes to see Sarah, events take an unexpected turn.

This film is a wonderful musical comedy/drama.  I was interested to see how Marlon Brando would be as Sky Masterson, as musicals are not a genre usually associated with Brando.  The first choice for this role was apparently Gene Kelly, who wanted very much to play Sky, but he was contracted to MGM, and they would not loan him out for this film.  As I watched Brando, I tried to imagine Kelly playing the role, and I do think he would have made a marvellous job of it.  However, Brando surprised me by really making the part his own.  He may not have the best singing voice, but he holds a tune well, and I enjoyed his songs, especially the well known Luck Be A Lady.  He is also at his most handsome and charming here.  Sinatra, naturally, sings his songs beautifully, and was wonderful as the slightly dodgy but basically likeable Nathan Detroit.

I also loved Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine as Sarah Brown and Miss Adelaide (the latter being the long suffering fiancee of Nathan Detroit, who despairs of them ever getting married).  Adelaide is a nightclub singer and dancer (backed by the real life dancers The Goldwyn Girls), and the couple of sings which we see her perform as part of her act are a real treat.  The opening dance scene, and the dance preceding the Luck Be A Lady are terrific, full of colour and beautifully choreographed, and the dancing in the Havana restaurant scene is also lots of fun to watch.

My only slight niggle about the film comes from its length – at 2 and a half hours, it is perhaps slightly overlong, but I’m probably nitpicking.  Overall, it was a funny film, packed with real talent, and well worth watching – highly recommended.

Year of release: 1955

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Producer: Samuel Goldwyn

Writers: Damon Runyon (stories ‘The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown’ and ‘Blood Pressure’), Jo Swerling (play ‘Guys and Dolls’), Abe Burrows (play ‘Guys and Dolls’), Joseph L. Makiewicz, Ben Hecht

Main cast: Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons, Vivian Blaine, Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully

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(Click here for my review of the 2016 stage production of Guys and Dolls.)

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