Guys & Dolls
The enormously popular musical "Guys and Dolls" burst onto the Broadway stage in 1950. It was so well-received that writer Abe Burrows was selected to receive a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts. Sadly, the honor was retracted, while the author was under investigation by the anti-Communist HUAC. Yet the play went on to run for 1200 performances, win the Tony for Best Musical, and become enormously influential. Based on the stories of Damon Runyon, the work is populated with colorful gamblers, gangsters and chorus girls.
When producer Samuel Goldwyn obtained the movie rights to the play, he hired Joseph L. Mankiewicz to direct and write the screenplay. The script is witty, but often talky, which hampers the action and makes for some dull stretches. The casting of the movie proved problematic. Instead of the role of Sky which he preferred, Sinatra was chosen to play Nathan Detroit, despite the protestations of the composer, Frank Loesser. As always, he was able to bring it off, but appeared ill at ease. Recognized more for drama, Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons were picked for Sky and Sarah, using their own singing voices, which is often a compromise. Vivian Blaine and Stubby Kaye repeated the roles they created in the original musical, and are the stand-outs of the cast. The jazzy Michael Kidd choreography is well executed, though many of the production numbers are over-embellished.
Uneven though it may be, "Guys and Dolls," at a cost of over $5 million dollars, is unquestionably an eyeful. Warner Home Video's new Blu-ray version beautifully captures the lurid color. The overall picture quality is quite good, but unremarkable. One of the best aspects of the new Blu-ray is the DTS-HD 5.1 audio soundtrack, in which Loesser's snappy score comes through with remarkable clarity and distinct stereo separation. The extras include several brief documentaries that were created for the 2006 DVD Deluxe Edition. The families of Mankiewicz and Loesser are on hand to comment on the making of the film, and its controversial casting choices.
As the new, high-definition Blu-ray is a noticeable improvement over previous DVD versions, the choice is obvious for fans of this vibrant musical.
Guys and Dolls