17 February 2005 | jotix100
Times Square according to Damon Runyon
Damon Runyon's world of Times Square, in New York, prior to its Disneyfication, is the basis for this musical. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a man who knew about movies, directed this nostalgic tribute to the "crossroads of the world" that show us that underside of New York of the past. Frank Loesser's music sounds great. We watch a magnificent cast of characters that were typical of the area. People at the edges of society tended to gravitate toward that area because of the lights, the action, the possibilities in that part of town. This underbelly of the city made a living out of the street life that was so intense.
Some of the songs from the original production were not included in the film. We don't know whether this makes sense, but this is not unusual for a Hollywood musical to change and alter what worked on the stage. That original cast included the wonderful Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye, and we wonder about the decision of not letting Robert Alda, Sam Levene, Isabel Bigley repeat their original roles. These were distinguished actors that could have made an amazing contribution.
The film, visually, is amazing. The look follows closely the fashions of the times. As far as the casting of Marlon Brando, otherwise not known for his singing abilities, Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons, seem to work in the film. Sky Masterson is, after all, a man's man, who would look otherwise sissy if he presented a different 'look'. Frank Sinatra is good as Nathan Detroit. Jean Simmons, as Sarah Brown, does a nice job portraying the woman from the Salvation Army who suddenly finds fulfillment with the same kind of man she is trying to save.
Vivian Blaine is a delight. She never ceases to amaze as Miss Adelaide, a woman with a heart of gold who's Nathan Detroit's love interest. Ms. Blaine makes a fantastic impression as the show girl who is wiser than she lets out to be. Stubby Kaye makes a wonderful job out of reprising his Nicely Nicely Johnson.
The wonderful production owes a lot to the talented Abe Burrows, who made the adaptation to the screen. The costumes by Irene Sharaff set the right tone.