Monday, November 15, 2010

Movies You Might Have Missed Monday

This past weekend’s TCM experiment for my Daniel and I was The Cincinnati Kid starring Steve McQueen.

There’s no denying McQueen is the man’s man to end all man’s men, no less so in this New Orleans poker game nail-biter closely resembling a Western gun slinging standoff.

While I’m glad I watched it if only to be reminded why McQueen was such a star, it is not the movie that I’m highlighting today.

But it reminded me of the one I do recommend.

I realize, and you will too soon enough, that I take quite the risk naming these two movies in the same literary breath and that I might be fighting an already lost battle suggesting this of all movies.

Because… it’s a musical.

What on earth, you might say to yourself, do Steve McQueen and a classic musical have in common?

Well, because the movie, Guys and Dolls, is about gamblers.

Now, The Cincinnati Kid has a stark message – pride goes before the fall.

Guys and Dolls incorporates that message, but so many more in this story of high stakes.

As a rule, I like musicals. But what drew me to this one was the cast. Frank Sinatra – who can’t stand to listen to his voice for a bar or two? Jean Simmons – the classic actress, not the 70s rocker who likes to wear makeup… who spells his name differently anyway. And the biggest draw (for me) of all – Marlon Brando.

Yes, Marlon Brando sings in this film.

But let me get to the plot.

The local craps game organizer, Nathan Detroit (played by Sinatra), is supposed to be setting up a secret (not to mention illegal) game, but the heat, namely Inspector Brannigan, is on his case. He needs $1,000 to secure a location, but he doesn’t have it. But high rollers are in town, and he’ll face unrecoverable shame and humiliation if he doesn’t find a place to host the game. So, being the opportunistic gambler that he is, he attempts to lure one of the high rollers, Sky Masterson (played by Brando) into a sucker bet that will provide him with the money he needs.

At first, it doesn’t work because Sky is no fool.

But then… they start talking about women. J

Nathan succeeds in his quest when Sky accepts the bet that he can take any woman Nathan names to Cuba with him for dinner on a whim. Nathan names Sister Sarah Brown (played by Simmons), the leader of the local chapter of Save a Soul Mission.

As you might imagine, this opens up a whole other can of worms.

But I love how this story proceeds. Both parties, Sky the Gambler and Sister Sarah the pious missionary, discover much about each other, but more importantly much about themselves.

I like how they respect the place of religion in life at the same time pointing out common flaws in how we religious folks live out that life. When the mechanics of religion become a higher priority than relationship, the masks we all wear dissolve revealing the flesh hiding behind them. And the world will be the first to point out the discrepancies. This movie, though, does not use those discrepancies to discredit the religion. Because the Truth wins out when all the other barriers are removed.

This is not a religious film. Yet, many principles shine through in the midst of entertaining songs, a touching love story, witty dialogue and classic actors delighting us with top-notch performances.

Another reason to watch this film – Marlon Brando singing Luck Be a Lady. That’s right. Not Sinatra, who made the song famous on the stages of Las Vegas. Brando sings it in Guys and Dolls. Wow. Super impressive.

Let the men have the man’s man McQueen. I’ll take a crooning Brando any day.

Hope the start of your week is fantastic! Thanks for spending time here on Dry Ground!

(photos by


Anonymous said...

Nice one!!

Happy Monday, Lori!