201 - Guys And Dolls (1955)

One guy bets another that he can't take a missionary to dinner.

Finding himself short of cash to organise the next big illegal craps game, Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) realises the only way he can raise the money quick enough is to wager a bet. When Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), a gambler willing to bet on almost anything, shows up, Detroit bets Sky that he can't take a girl of Detroit's choosing out.

The girl that Detroit chooses is a cold missionary (Jean Simmons) and Sky gets to work on asking her out for a date. Meanwhile, Detroit needs to sort out his own life. Desperately short of money and under pressure from a lot of people, he also finds his fiancee of 14 years pressuring him for marriage.

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
The only thing I knew about Guys and Dolls before watching it, is that it is a musical. I didn't know the outstanding stars on show, I didn't know the songs (although, Luck Be A Lady, I did) and I didn't know the story.

Now, when I'm watching a musical, I find it difficult to enjoy unless I know the songs because it is difficult to follow a story when the characters just randomly start singing their problems away. Happily, Guys and Dolls isn't one of those films, and I was instantly hooked on the humour and the easy-to-follow story.

Initially I was confused how on earth Marlon Brando could be cast in Guys and Dolls. Having recently watched The Godfather trilogy I could only remember Brando for his turn as the rasping Don and the voice on display there is a million miles away from that associated with a jolly, upbeat musical. That is the sign of a good actor though, and at the end of the film there was no-one better than the youthful Brando as the gambling lothario.

Despite Frank Sinatra's present day legacy which sees him remembered as one of the early music icons, it is easy to forget that during the early 1950's he was going through a tough period in his life. His appeal to the younger audience was waning and when he suffered hemorrhaging of his vocal cords in 1951 he entered a period of self doubt. Guys and Dolls was during the Sinatra renaissance and was released just two years after his Academy Award for the supporting role in From Here to Eternity. He was back, and better than ever.

It is important to remember that Guys and Dolls isn't a serious musical - there are very few real world issues on show - and in the end it is simply just good fun.

Just some guys and some dolls enjoying themselves. Exactly how a musical should be.