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MARTY (1955)

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Producers Burt Lancaster and Harold Hecht took a chance on what screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky called “the most ordinary love story in the world.” Not only did they film the adaptation of Chayefsky’s television play on location in New York, but the producers also chose to go with lesser-known actors. United Artists wanted a box-office name such as Marlon Brando for the star, but Lancaster and Hecht insisted on casting Ernest Borgnine as the lonely Bronx butcher who falls for plain schoolteacher Betsy Blair. UA had such little faith in the picture that they wanted to burn it off as a second feature and use it as a tax write-off. Chayefsky convinced them to book it in an art house theater in New York, and then Hecht and Lancaster courted the press to garner favorable coverage. When the picture won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, box office picked up considerably. Eventually, it captured the Oscars for Best Picture, Director (Delbert Mann), Screenplay (Chayefsky) and Actor (Borgnine). With its $3 million take, it still stands as one of the most profitable films ever made. That success opened Hollywood’s eyes to the box-office potential of low-budget independent films. Not only did UA become a haven for independent filmmakers, but other major studios started courting them as well. (d. Delbert Mann, 94m, 35mm)

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