When Joseph L. Mankiewicz's adaptation of the Broadway smash Guys and Dolls (1955, Warner, unrated, $35) hit movie screens back in 1955, it wasn't particularly well-received. But the musical, which is new to Blu-ray, is worth a second look.
Marlon Brando, making his debut as a song-and-dance man, is surprisingly effective as smooth gambler Sky Masterson, while Frank Sinatra brings plenty of pizzazz to the role of second banana Nathan Detroit, especially in his priceless scenes with Vivian Blaine as his long-suffering sweetie, Adelaide.
The movie's secret weapon might be Jean Simmons, who succeeds in turning the role of the underwritten Salvation Army sergeant Sarah Brown into a worthy foil for Brando. Their scenes together have plenty of snap, crackle and pop. And the music is out of this world. Nearly every single one of the tunes by Frank Loesser went on to become a standard, including the title number, If I Were A Bell, Fugue For Tinhorns, Luck Be A Lady, Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat, The Oldest Established and I've Never Been In Love Before.
Guys and Dolls isn't considered among the top tier of movies overseen by Mankiewicz, a Wilkes-Barre native. Granted, All About Eve and A Letter To Three Wives are better films. But Guys and Dolls is Mankiewicz at his loosest and most fun. Check it out.
Amy Longsdorf writes about DVD and Blu-Ray releases with local connections.