Marlon Brando doing a musical? Hollywood, you card you! Guys and Dolls, directed by the ever-immaculate Joseph L. Mankiewicz, stars Brando and Jean Simmons in a musical so large only Brando could’ve reigned it in. The man stars as a top-notch gambling man, who makes a bet with another fellow gambling organizer (played by Frank Sinatra) that he cannot take one of the most prudish, uptight religious servant of a Salvation Army-type collective (Simmons) on a dinner date to Havana, Cuba. Now, yet another musical wouldn’t and shouldn’t automatically make the list, but Guys and Dolls isn’t just another musical; thanks to the names attached, it is quite possibly the very standard of a musical.
In terms of the make-up of the product, you’ve seen this before; a broadly framed Technicolor extravaganza with excessive production value and musical numbers to wow the hardest critic. What makes Guys and Dolls more than that is who’s behind the finished product, from the production crew to the standout cast (it seems every musical of the era either wanted to have or had Frank Sinatra, but Sinatra only begrudgingly did the project after losing the role of Sky Masterson to Brando; fun trivia bit). However, there is always a cloud with your silver lining – this musical makes the cardinal mistake that makes people hate musicals so much; not just that there are random songs everywhere, but because the film is an addict, jonesing for his next fix of music, to the point that the film will break out into song just because it’s been a little while since the last one, and not when the song should be appropriate for the scene and the film. Now, having partly been brought up on musicals, I can weather the storm well enough, but at this point in my quest, musicals have almost gotten to the point that horror films have gotten for me; I’ve had just about enough of them for one lifetime.
Still, I shouldn’t hold it against the film. As far as musicals go, if ever there was a barometer film that firmly sets the bar for what a musical of the times should be, Guys and Dolls would be it. This is both a good thing and a bad one, depending on your taste in musicals. Oh, one other thing: for a musical, this is damn long; two and a half hours is a long ass time to sit around watching people break out into song randomly and generally ham it up for the stage presence, so if musicals aren’t your thing (and you’ve heard me say that dozens of times on this site), stay the hell away from this one. If they are, though, there’s some solid players involved with this one, both in front of and behind the camera, so you know this is gonna be one hell of a fine product, and objectively, it is.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10