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Guys and Dolls (film)

Guys and Dolls
theatrical poster
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced by Samuel Goldwyn
Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Ben Hecht
Based on Guys and Dolls 
by Abe Burrows (book)
Jo Swerling (book)
Frank Loesser
(music & lyrics)
Damon Runyon (stories)
Music by Frank Loesser
Cinematography Harry Stradling
Edited by Daniel Mandell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • November 3, 1955 (1955-11-03) (US)
Running time
150 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5.5 million
Box office $20,000,000

Guys and Dolls is a 1955 musical film starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine. The film was made by Samuel Goldwyn Productions and distributed by MGM. It was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also wrote the screenplay. The film is based on the 1950 Broadway musical by composer and lyricist Frank Loesser, with a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows based on "The Idyll Of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure", two short stories by Damon Runyon.[1] Dances were choreographed by Michael Kidd, who had also staged the dances for the Broadway production.

At Samuel Goldwyn and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's request, Frank Loesser wrote three new songs for the film: "Pet Me Poppa", "(Your Eyes Are the Eyes of) A Woman in Love", and "Adelaide", the last written specifically for Sinatra. Five songs in the stage musical were omitted from the movie: "A Bushel and a Peck", "My Time of Day", "I've Never Been In Love Before" (although these are heard instrumentally as background music), "More I Cannot Wish You" and "Marry the Man Today".


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Awards and honors 4
  • Reception 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Although there are detail differences between the stage and movie versions, the plot is essentially based on the activities of New York petty criminals and professional gamblers in the late 1940s.

Gambler Nathan Detroit (Marlon Brando), a gambler willing to bet on virtually anything and for high amounts. Nathan proposes a $1000 bet by which Sky must take a girl of Nathan's choosing to dinner in Havana, Cuba. The bet seems impossible for Sky to win when Nathan nominates Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), a straight-walking sister at the Save a Soul Mission (based on the Salvation Army) which opposes gambling.

Sarah herself has problems. She has been in charge of the Broadway branch of the Mission for some time now and no drunks or gamblers have come in to confess or reform. To approach Sarah, Sky pretends that he is a gambler who wants to change. Sarah sees how expensively dressed he is and she is suspicious: "It's just so unusual for a successful sinner to be unhappy about sin."

Seeing that the Mission is and has been empty and unsuccessful, "a store full of repentance and no customers", Sky suggests a bargain. He will get a dozen sinners into the Mission for her Thursday night meeting in return for her having dinner with him in Havana. With General Matilda Cartwright (Kathryn Givney) threatening to close the Broadway branch for lack of participation, Sarah has little choice left, and agrees to the date.

Meanwhile, confident that he will win his bet with Sky, Nathan has gathered together all the gamblers, including a visitor that tough-guy Harry the Horse (Sheldon Leonard) has invited: Big Jule (B.S. Pully), a Chicago mobster. When Lieutenant Brannigan appears and notices this gathering of "senior delinquents", all gathered at Mindys, Nathan's sidekick, Benny Southstreet (Johnny Silver), covers it up by claiming that they are celebrating the fact that Nathan is getting married to Adelaide. Nathan is shocked by this, but is forced to play along. Later, when he notices the Save a Soul Mission band passing by and sees that Sarah is not among them, he collapses on the realization that he has lost his bet with Sky. He has no money and nowhere to house the crap game, and, since Adelaide was present at the "wedding announcement" Benny Southstreet dreamed up, he is now apparently committed to actually marrying Adelaide. He does love Adelaide, but is uneasy about going straight, either maritally or lawfully.

Over the course of their short stay in Cuba, Sky manages to break down Sarah's social inhibitions, partly through disguised alcoholic drinks (several glasses of milk with Bacardi added "as a preservative"), and they begin to fall in love with one another. He even confesses that the whole date was part of a bet, but she forgives him as she realizes that his love for her is sincere.

They return to Broadway at dawn and meet the Save a Soul Mission band which, on Sky's advice, has been parading all night. At that moment police sirens can be heard, and before they know it the gamblers led by Nathan Detroit are hurrying out of a back room of the Mission, where they took advantage of the empty premises to hold the crap game.

The police arrive too late to make any arrests, but Lieutenant Brannigan finds the absence of Sarah and the other Save a Soul members too convenient to have been a coincidence. He implies that it was all Sky's doing: "Masterson, I had you in my big-time book. Now I suppose I'll have to reclassify you — under shills and decoys". Sarah is equally suspicious that Sky has had something to do with organizing the crap game at the Mission and she angrily takes her leave of him, refusing to accept his denials.

But Sky still has to make good his arrangement with Sarah to provide sinners to the Mission. Sarah would rather forget the whole thing, but Uncle Arvide Abernathy (Regis Toomey), who acts as a kind of father figure to her, warns Sky that "If you don't make that marker good, I'm going to buzz it all over town you're a welcher."

Nathan has continued the crap game in a sewer. With his revolver visible in its shoulder holster, Big Jule, who has lost all his money, forces Nathan to play against him while he cheats, cleaning Nathan out. Sky enters and knocks Big Jule down and removes his pistol. Sky, who has been stung and devastated by Sarah's rejection, lies to Nathan that he lost the bet about taking her to Havana, and pays Nathan the $1000. Nathan tells Big Jule he now has money to play him again, but Harry the Horse says that Big Jule can't play without cheating because "he cannot make a pass to save his soul". Sky overhears this, and the phrasing inspires him to make a bold bet: He will roll the dice, and if he loses he will give all the other gamblers $1000 each; if he wins they are all to attend a prayer meeting at the Mission.

The Mission is near to closing when suddenly the gamblers come parading in, taking up most of the room. Sky won the roll. They grudgingly confess their sins, though they show little sign of repentance: "Well ... I was always a bad guy. I was even a bad gambler. I would like to be a good guy and a good gambler. I thank you." Even Big Jule declares: "I used to be bad when I was a kid. But ever since then I've gone straight, as I can prove by my record — 33 arrests and no convictions." Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Stubby Kaye) however, recalling a dream he had the night before, seems to have an authentic connection to the Mission's aim, and this satisfies everyone.

When Nathan tells Sarah that Sky lost the Cuba bet, which she knows he won, she hurries off in order to make up with him.

It all ends with a double wedding in the middle of Times Square, with Sky marrying Sarah, and Nathan marrying Adelaide, who is given away by Lieutenant Brannigan. Arvide Abernathy performs the dual ceremony. Nicely-Nicely has joined the Save a Soul Mission, and he and Sarah's assistant are sweet on each other. As the film closes, the two newlywed couples are escorted from the wedding to their respective love nests inside police cars, with lights festively flashing and sirens blaring.



Robert Alda had originated the role of Sky Masterson on Broadway in 1950. For the movie, Gene Kelly, at first seemed a serious candidate for the part. Instead it went to Marlon Brando, partly because MGM would not loan Kelly for the production, but also because Goldwyn wanted to cast Brando, the world's biggest box office draw at that moment. The film ended up being distributed by MGM, Kelly's home studio. Frank Sinatra had wanted the role of Sky, and relations between him and Brando were strained. Hollywood critic James Bacon quotes Sinatra telling director Joe Mankiewicz, "When Mumbles is through rehearsing, I'll come out".[3] Sinatra had also been considered for the part of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront;[4] both roles went to Brando.

Since Betty Grable was not available to play Miss Adelaide, Goldwyn cast Vivian Blaine, who had originated the role onstage.[5] Marilyn Monroe had wanted the part of Adelaide but a telephone request from her did not influence Joe Mankiewicz, who wanted Blaine from the original production.[6]

Goldwyn wanted Grace Kelly for Sarah Brown, the Save-a-Soul sister. When she turned the part down because of other commitments, Goldwyn tried Deborah Kerr, who was also unavailable. The third choice was Jean Simmons who had recently played opposite Brando in Désirée. Goldwyn was surprised by Simmons' sweet voice and strong acting and ultimately believed the love story worked better in the film than onstage. 'I'm so happy' he said after seeing the rushes one day 'that I couldn't get Grace Kelly'. Director Joe Mankiewicz called Simmons "the dream ... a fantastically talented and enormously underestimated girl. In terms of talent, Jean Simmons is so many heads and shoulders above most of her contemporaries, one wonders why she didn't become the great star she could have been." [7]

The musical numbers performed by Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando were sung by the actors themselves, without dubbing by professional singers.[8][9][10]

Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully, and Johnny Silver all repeated their Broadway roles in the film.

Awards and honors

In 2004, the AFI ranked the song "Luck Be a Lady" at #42 on their list of the 100 greatest film songs, AFI's 100 Years... 100 Songs. In 2006 Guys and Dolls ranked #23 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.


Guys and Dolls opened on November 3, 1955 to mostly good reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 90% out of 29 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.6/10. Casting Marlon Brando has long been somewhat controversial, although Variety wrote "The casting is good all the way." This was the only Samuel Goldwyn film released through MGM. With an estimated budget of over $5 million, it garnered rentals in excess of $13 million. Variety ranked it as the #1 moneymaking film of 1956; when a film is released late in a calendar year (October to December), its income is reported in the following year's compendium, unless the film made a particularly fast impact. Guys and Dolls went on to gross $1.1 million in the UK, $1 million in Japan, and over $20 million globally.

According to MGM records the film earned $6,801,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $2,262,000 elsewhere, resulting in a total of $9,063,000.[12]

See also



  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Pictures Will Talk, Kenneth L. Geist, p.258
  4. ^ On the Waterfront (1954) - Trivia
  5. ^ Goldwyn, A. Scott Berg, p.472
  6. ^ Pictures Will Talk, Geist, p.256
  7. ^ Pictures Will Talk, Geist, p.258
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ .

External links

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