"Guys and Dolls" is just about my favourite musical; not only does it boast a wonderful score, but it has a great book and a galaxy of unforgettable characters drawn directly from the pages of Damon Runyon.
But does it work as a film? Well, on balance, my answer is "yes", albeit with certain reservations.
Interestingly enough, the director, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, has chosen to direct the film in a very "stagey " way and I absolutely love this (especially the opening scene), as I do Michael Kidd's choreography. It's not a short film, even though a number of songs from the stage show have been cut; Regis Toomey's Arvide loses his lovely solo (I've sung the part and it's great song, believe me), but more grievous still is the loss of "A Bushel and a Peck", especially as the number which replaces it, although also written by Frank Loesser, is nowhere near as effective in my opinion.
Don't get me wrong; I like this film, but I do have serious reservations about some of the casting. To my mind, the best performances come from those actors who were in the original Broadway stage production, notably Stubby Kaye's definitive Nicely Nicely and Vivian Blaine's Miss Adelaide; there are those who are of the opinion that her performance is overly "stagey", but I do not subscribe to that view. Sinatra is, of course, wonderful as Nathan Detroit, a part usually taken on stage by an actor rather than a singer, but he has an instinctive feel for the idiom and despatches his lines brilliantly. Inevitably, he gets more to sing than stage Nathans, including that fine ballad "Adelaide", written especially for the film and arranged by the great Nelson Riddle. The other star names drafted in are rather less successful, although Jean Simmons looks beautiful, acts beautifully and sings adequately as Sarah Brown.
My major bug-bear concerns the casting of Marlon Brando, whose participation was, of course, a major selling point at the time of the film's release ("Brando sings!"). What we hear of his singing apparently owes much to the skill of the recording engineers, but even so, it is extraordinarily lacklustre, to my ears at any rate. Sinatra apparently coveted the part of Sky Masterson and although Nathan is perhaps more suited to his histrionic gifts, you can nevertheless appreciate his resentment, especially when you hear Brando's low-key rendition of "Luck be a Lady", which was for many years an integral part of Sinatra's Vegas night-club act. The original choice for the part was Gene Kelly and you can only regret what might have been. The supporting players are without exception magnificent, with a special bouquet to Sheldon Leonard's Harry the Horse.
Whether you are familiar with the stage musical or not, you will, I suspect, still find much to enjoy here and as this is a "Special Collector's Edition", the additional "special features" are particularly good value.
on 1 January 2013
GUYS AND DOLLS  [Deluxe Limited Edition DigiBook] [Blu-ray] [US Import] Hollywood’s Starriest Musical! Samuel Goldwyn’s Greatest Musical!
Gambler Nathan Detroit [Frank Sinatra] has few options for the location of his big craps game. Needing $1,000 to pay a garage owner to host the game, Nathan bets Sky Masterson [Marlon Brando] that Sky cannot get virtuous Sarah Brown [Jean Simmons] out on a date. Despite some resistance, Sky Masterson negotiates a date with her in exchange for bringing people into her mission. Meanwhile, Nathan's long-time fiancée, Adelaide [Vivian Blaine], wants him to go legit and marry her.
FILM FACTS: Awards and Nominations: Academy Awards®: Nominated for Best Art Direction: Oliver Smith, Joseph C. Wright and Howard Bristol. Nominated for Best Cinematography: Harry Stradling. Nominated for Best Costume Design: Irene Sharaff. Nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture: Jay Blackton and Cyril J. Mockridge. BAFTA® Awards: Nominated for Best Film from any Source. Nominated for Best Foreign Actress: Jean Simmons. Golden Globe® Awards: Best Motion Picture for Musical/Comedy. Best Motion Picture Actress for Musical/Comedy: Jean Simmons. The musical numbers performed by Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando were sung by the actors themselves, without dubbing by professional singers. Stubby Kaye [Nicely-Nicely Johnson], B.S. Pully [Big Jule] and Johnny Silver [Benny Southstreet] all repeated their Broadway roles in the film.
Cast: Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine, Robert Keith, Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully, Johnny Silver, Sheldon Leonard, Danny Dayton, George E. Stone, Regis Toomey, Kathryn Givney, Veda Ann Borg, Mary Alan Hokanson, Joe McTurk, Kay E. Kuter, Stapleton Kent, Renee Renor, The Goldwyn Girls, Barbara Brent (uncredited), Noble 'Kid' Chissell (uncredited), Russell Custer (uncredited), Jann Darlyn (uncredited), Madelyn Darrow (uncredited), Larry Duran (uncredited), Rubén de Fuentes (uncredited), June Kirby (uncredited), Matt Mattox (uncredited), Matt Murphy (uncredited), Pat Sheehan (uncredited), Sandra Warner (uncredited), Sonia Warner (uncredited) and Harry Wilson (uncredited)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Producer: Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Ben Hecht (uncredited), Abe Burrows (based upon the play), Damon Runyon and Jo Swerling (based upon the play)
Composer: Frank Loesser
Cinematography: Harry Stradling
Costume Design: Irene Sharaff
Video Resolution: 1080p [Eastman Color]
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1 [CinemaScope]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
Running Time: 150 minutes
Number of discs: 1
Region: All Regions
Studio: Warner Home Video / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: After well over 60 years, 'Guys and Dolls' remains one of the most popular, oft-revived, and flat-out delightful shows in the Broadway canon, combining an array of clever, hummable Frank Loesser tunes with an irresistible blend of romance, comedy, and memorable Damon Runyon characters. All the ingredients for a classic musical are here, and though producer Samuel Goldwyn's big, brassy film adaptation tries its best to capture the unbridled joy of the stage original, it somehow falls short. Questionable casting and stilted direction surely contribute to the mediocre results, but there's still a lot to like about the film version of 'Guys and Dolls.' Unfortunately, the isolated bits of magic never quite add up to a satisfying whole.
Runyon's milieu was Broadway, and he was a master at depicting the suave, streetwise gamblers, blustery thugs, and sassy babes that roamed the midtown New York streets. His colourful characters spoke like no others, spouting double-talk and shunning contractions, and the resulting formal, awkward speech patterns evolved into a unique, strangely lyrical dialect that could only be had with a film like 'Guys and Dolls' which is immortalises that world and Frank Loesser sets it to music, composing a marvellous array of catchy melodies enhanced by inspired lyrics that perfectly suit the material.
The simple story of virtue, vice, and ultimate redemption is told like a fable, and chronicles the romantic travails of two couples. The commitment phobic Nathan Detroit [Frank Sinatra], who runs "the oldest established, permanent floating crap game in New York," has been affianced to marry to the charmingly ditzy Miss Adelaide [Vivian Blain], a sexy nightclub singer, for 14 years (yes, 14 years!). Nathan has deftly dodged the altar, but the stress of the interminable engagement has taken a toll on Adelaide, triggering a psychosomatic respiratory affliction. "In other words," she sings in her iconic musical lament, "just from waiting around for that plain little band of gold, a person can develop a cold." Nathan is sympathetic, but is preoccupied with acquiring some quick cash to front a game for out-of-town big shot Big Jule [B.S. Pully]. In a last-ditch effort, Nathan bets debonair gambler Sky Masterson [Marlon Brando] a thousand bucks he can't convince prim and proper Sarah Brown [Jean Simmons], the leader of the local Save-a-Soul mission, to accompany him to Havana for dinner. This sets in motion a typical opposite-attract romance that tests the will of both Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson, forcing them to accept each other's frailties and make critical concessions in the name of love, all amid lively songs and energetic choreography by Michael Kidd.
From the film version of 'Guys and Dolls' raised eyebrows. Producer Samuel Goldwyn shelled out the then-record sum of $1 million for the show's rights, then bankrolled the rest of the $5.5 million budget himself. In other surprising moves, he hired OSCAR® winning director Joseph L. Mankiewicz for 'All About Eve,' who had never before, or, ironically, since, directed a musical, to adapt and film the material, and tapped Frank Sinatra to play the subordinate role of Nathan instead of the more dashing Sky Masterson, much to the actor-singer's dismay and disgust. Sky Masterson went to, of all people, Marlon Brando, who also had no prior musical experience. Reportedly, Frank Sinatra, unable to contain his resentment, sulked through the filming, causing strained relations on the set. The beautiful Jean Simmons, another non-singer, somehow landed the part of Sarah, while the only sensible casting choice allowed Vivian Blaine to reprise her portrayal of Miss Adelaide, which she originated to great acclaim on Broadway.
And instead of shooting the film on location in New York City, which would have lent 'Guys and Dolls' a priceless authenticity, stylised sets were used, heightening the sense of artificiality and staginess that often permeates this film. Joseph L. Mankiewicz's screenplay beefs up the characters' personalities, but his straightforward shooting method are lacking the fluid motion and creative composition necessary to spark excitement. While it's impossible not to be entertained by the songs, dances, and characters, the material is that good! The film still tends to plod along at times, as if afflicted by a nagging malaise. 'Guys and Dolls' is a humdinger of a show, but this production lacks the oomph that has made this musical such a perennial favourite.
Like many stage-to-screen adaptations, new songs were written for the film, replacing old standards. Unfortunately, the lilting “I've Never Been in Love Before,” bouncy “A Bushel and a Peck,” reflective “My Time of Day,” and spritely “Marry the Man Today” were all dropped in favour of three subpar melodies, all penned by Frank Loesser, that never seem to blend into the show's fabric. Thankfully, though, such favourites as “Luck Be a Lady,” “I'll Know,” the title song, “Adelaide's Lament,” “Take Back Your Mink” and “Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat” are all still here and performed with appropriate vim and verve by the cast, which includes a few holdovers, most notably the rotund Stubby Kaye as Nicely-Nicely Johnson, from the Broadway production.
Many also decry Jean Simmons' portrayal of Sarah Brown, but I'm a huge fan of her work in this film. Sure, Samuel Goldwyn could have found a more competent singer, but Jean Simmons, one of the screen's classiest and most beautiful actresses, interprets the lyrics with such sincerity, it's easy to forgive any vocal shortcomings. In fact, my favourite scene in the film is when a drunken Sarah sings the effervescent “If I Were a Bell.” Jean Simmons performs the number with such charm and abandon; we finally feel that elusive sense of joie de vivre for which we've been pining since the brilliant film began.
Blu-ray Video Quality – When done really well, musicals with their vibrant colour palette, splashy sets, and glamorous costumes can be a high-definition lover's dream, and 'Guys and Dolls' is a perfect example of just how good an Eastman Color classic can look in 1080p. I remember all too well watching faded, bad quality prints of 'Guys and Dolls' on TV when I was younger, so seeing Warner Bros. meticulous re-master of this eye-filling musical was a revelation. Possessing a strikingly palpable film-like feel, thanks to a layer of fine grain, this high-quality 1080p effort combines cosy warmth with bold accents to create an extremely satisfying visual experience. Crystal clarity and well-pitched contrast allow details to pop and lend the image a lovely sense of depth. Colours are beautifully saturated, with both luscious primaries and cool pastels emitting a nice sheen. The red carnations on the gamblers' jackets, their multi-coloured neckties, and the red uniforms of the mission workers pump up the picture's excitement quotient and are complemented by rich and inky black levels and natural, stable flesh tones. Patterns, from the intricate plaid of Nicely-Nicely's jacket to Frank Sinatra's muted pinstripe, are rock solid and resist shimmering, while the satin, feathers, and furs adorning the Hot Box Girls exude a fine array of textures. Close-ups are sharp yet never harsh, and background elements come through cleanly. And speaking of clean, not a single nick, scratch, line, or speck of dust dot the pristine source material, which really looks like it was minted yesterday. A few soft edges occasionally creep in, but they're never pronounced enough to disrupt anyone's enjoyment of this superior effort. Any digital doctoring also escapes notice, and no banding, noise, or other annoyances crop up. Fans of classic cinema will be thrilled with this excellent transfer, which pumps even more energy into 'Guys and Dolls.'
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track pumps out clear, vibrant sound. Stereo separation is nicely pronounced across the front channels, with effects seamlessly dovetailing to the left and right, but rear activity is quite limited. Atmospherics, such as the din at Mindy's Restaurant, possess good presence, and accents like footsteps are crisp and distinct. Dialogue is always easy to understand, and a wide dynamic scale handles all the demands of the brassy score without a hint of distortion. The musical numbers sound great, filling the room yet remaining connected to the rest of the mix. Vocals are nicely prioritized, but instrumentals never receive short shrift. There are even some stellar instances of weighty bass enhancing various melodies and the fracas in the Havana bar. Best of all, any age-related imperfections, such as hiss, pops, and crackles have been completely erased. The 'Guys and Dolls' soundtrack won't blow anyone away, but for a well over a 60-year-old film, the audio will be music to even the most discriminating ears.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Special Feature: Guys and Dolls: The Goldwyn Touch [480i] [4:3] [24:00] Members of the Frank Loesser family, the son of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and Samuel Goldwyn's biographer discuss the distinctive "Goldwyn Touch" that permeates the independent producer's work and how it relates specifically to 'Guys and Dolls' in this interesting and informative piece. The participants also talk about the production's genesis, Goldwyn's attraction to the property, and the changes Joseph L. Mankiewicz made to the original book, and share some entertaining behind-the-scenes anecdotes.
Special Feature: Feature: Guys and Dolls: From Stage to Screen [480i] [4:3] [27:00] Equally absorbing, this feature concentrates on the similarities and differences between the original stage production of 'Guys and Dolls' and its filmed counterpart. Broadway transplants Blaine and Stubby Kaye are saluted, as are The Goldwyn Girls, a bevy of beautiful babes who supported Blaine in the nightclub numbers. The cut songs are also examined, and we hear of Frank Loesser's disappointment over their deletion, as well as their replacements, and choreographer Michael Kidd discusses in detail various dances and how they were adapted for the screen.
Special Short Feature: More Guys and Dolls Stories [480i] [4:3] [8:00] This collection of five snippets, each running under three minutes, is comprised of outtakes from the above features, and covers all aspect of this film and they include: Adelaide [480i] [4:3] [00:51] Features Tom Mankiewicz talking about his father's secretary who was named Adelaide. Brando Dance Lesson [480i] [4:3] [1:34] has Michael Kidd talking about teaching Marlon Brando to dance. Goldwyn's Career [480i] [4:3] [2:38] offers biographer A. Scott Berg talking about the producer Samuel Goldwyn. On the Set [480i] [4:3] [1:12] brings back Tom Mankiewicz who talks about being on the set as a kid while the picture was being shot. Rehearsing Adelaide [480i] [4:3] [1:29] has Michael Kidd talking about the song Frank Loesser wrote specifically for Frank Sinatra for the film.
Special Feature: Musical Performances [1080p] Six 'Guys and Dolls' numbers, but why not all of them? They are assembled here for easy access: “Fugue for Tinhorns,” “Guys and Dolls,” “I'll Know,” “Adelaide,” “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sue Me.” Sadly, Jean Simmons' marvellous rendition of “If I Were a Bell” is not included, nor is Vivian Blaine's pitch-perfect “Adelaide's Lament” or Stubby Kaye's rousing “Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat.” Shame on you, Warner Bros.
Theatrical Trailer [480i] [4:3] [5:00] Impresario Ed Sullivan "hosts" this lengthy preview in his inimitable "really big show" style.
Finally, 'Guys and Dolls' is far from the best Hollywood musical, but it possesses enough stellar moments to continue to merit our attention for more than 60 years after its initial release. Damon Runyon's irresistible characters and Frank Loesser's exceptional score more than compensate for the offbeat casting and sluggish direction that consistently threaten to sabotage this classic show. Despite such challenges, 'Guys and Dolls' still manages to entertain, and this top-flight Blu-ray from Warner Home Video showcases all the flash and dynamism of this colourful production. Excellent video and audio transfers make us forget the film's age, and a nice array of supplements adds essential historical context that any classic movie buff will appreciate. Shortcomings aside, 'Guys and Dolls' remains one of the all-time great American musicals and for that reason, as well as Warner Home Video superior Blu-ray package, it certainly earns my recommendation. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom