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Career gambler Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) runs "the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York." But he needs to make some fast money to keep the float afloat and to make good his 14 year promise to marry loyal-to-the- bone showgirl Adelaide (Vivian Blaines). He is convinced he will soon have $1000 to stash safely into his kick when he makes a bet with gambling big-shot Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando); that in 24 hours he can't convince dedicated and distrusting Salvation Army sergeant, Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), to join him at dinner for two in Havana.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
The Abe Burrows / Jo Swerling musical play, based on the raffish New York characters created by Damon Runyon in his short story The Idylls Of Sarah Brown, was a smash hit on Broadway. It wowed audiences for three years and 1200 performances and won Tonys for Best Musical and Best Choreography. But the larger than life sharpies and showgirls that inhabited Runyon's tale were flattened in the translation from stage to screen by the garish and stylised sets; by a director and stars (Brando and Simmons) who had no experience in musicals and by too many pedestrian Frank Loesser songs. It was pretty much in trouble before the cameras rolled. Gene Kelly lobbied long and hard for the lead role and Sinatra wanted it too, but both missed out to Brando, which caused much tension on the set.

Cranky Franky was still smarting over losing the plum part of Terry Malloy to Brando in On The Waterfront and described Brando not only as a "mumbler" but "the most overrated actor in the world." When it came to warbling Luck Be A Lady, Brando couldn't sing and his strained vocals are cobbled together from over a dozen attempts. Simmons, who only got the part because the director couldn't bear working with Marilyn Monroe again, couldn't sing either. "Maybe you don't sound so good," Mankiewicz told her, "but it's you!" And so Brando the gambler falls in love with Simmons the missionary with hardly a glint in his eye and Sinatra, who has been "running a crap game ever since (he) was a juvenile delinquent," keeps the lovelorn showgirl Blaine hanging onto her hopes for marriage - 14 years after they first became engaged - at least until the final reel. Loesser wrote two new songs, Pet Me Poppa and A Woman In Love to replace the more memorable A Bushel And A Peck and I've Never Been In Love Before. A third, Adelaide, was added to give Sinatra a solo.

As a result, the pacing suffers from too much talk, too few musical highlights and dance numbers that are energetic but uninspired. At 150 minutes, it's longer than its Rodgers and Hammerstein contemporaries, Oklahoma, The King And I and Carousel, and much less melodious. It's left to Broadway veterans Blaine and Stubby Kaye to "stop the show" - Blaine with Adelaide's lament to stalled hopes and Kaye with a rambunctious rendition of Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat. On the whole, however, it has the curious feel of a musical that is stylish and flashy but which no-one much wanted to do...and too few knew how.

Published June 30, 2005

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(US, 1955)

CAST: Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine

DIRECTOR: Joseph Mankiewicz

SCRIPT: Joseph Mankiewicz

RUNNING TIME: 150 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 16 x 9; DD 5.1; Languages: English, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish; Subtitles: English, for the hearing impaired, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish

SPECIAL FEATURES: Original trailer


DVD RELEASE: April 27, 2005

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