I have a new favorite quote and it comes from the 1956 Academy award winning film Marty. The quote, which is “college girls are one step from the street,” makes me laugh and disproves a perception I held about the 1950’s but in all actuality, it doesn’t have anything to do with why I enjoyed this movie so much. I loved Marty, and think you will too, because it’s (once again) a story about someone finding himself.
The plot circles around a 34 year old butcher, Marty Pilletti played by Ernest Borgnine, who is unmarried and has no prospects. All his siblings have gotten married and suddenly all the pressure is on him. To his surprise he meets a girl that he enjoys spending time with but runs into some reservations from his friends and family. Marty is forced to make a decision between listening to his heart and listening to everyone around him. It’s heartwarming and I love watching the emotional and psychological journey that he goes through to make his decision.
On a different note, going back to my new favorite quote, I enjoyed this film – and the quote – because it sucker punched my notion that everyone in the 1950’s thought that women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen on their way to be the archetypal June Cleaver. Obviously the person who delivers this line in the film thinks that way but she’s also an older woman “set in her ways” who obviously doesn’t understand the changing times. I’m sure that there were people who didn’t (and probably still don’t) get that Marty was poking fun at this idea, but the extremeness of the statement that educated women are somehow less than those who “can’t type on a typewriter” shows the ridiculousness of an outdated and incorrect perception.
What surprised me was how blatantly this 1955 movie attacks it. I know that women have been fighting for equal rights since the 1800’s and that there have been strong independent minded women throughout history, but I didn’t expect to see Hollywood, or any male dominated institution, outright call people out on it. I was and am impressed and pleasantly surprised to discover that my perceptions were incorrect and that there were people “back in the day” who saw the stupidity of preventing women from educating themselves and doing something with their lives other than get married and have babies.
It has been interesting for me to discover many of these older films and truly appreciate them for the quality and cleverness that they present to audiences. The special effects may be laughable and I may not always be familiar with the actors but the stories are still relevant and there is still something to be gained from watching them. Don’t let the lack of color fool you – the movies of yesterday often have more to offer than the blockbusters of today.