Marty Pilletti (Ernest Borgnine), is a lonely Bronx butcher. He’s a burly but gentle man, easing into middle age without much hope for romance or a career. He lives at home with his mother (Esther Minciotti), a kind but life-smothering woman, his cousin Tommy (Jerry Paris) and his wife Virginia (Karen Steele), and has a small circle of dead-end friends, namely Angie (Joe Mantell), his best friend. Marty has no self-confidence and feels he's dumpy and unattractive. He is constantly being asked when he will get married now that the last of his younger siblings has wed.

While it takes some doing, Marty's mother finally convinces him one night to go to the Stardust Ballroom in Manhattan, where he meets a plain-looking schoolteacher named Clara (Betsy Blair), whose life appears to mirror his own. He asks Clara to dance and soon they are smitten with one another. But to Marty's surprise and frustration, his friends put her down and his mother is hostile to her.

Later, Marty is disturbed to learn that Angie has been describing Clara as a "dog." After his buddies, who quote novelist Mickey Spillane and gaze at girlie magazines, inform him that it’s bad for his reputation to go out with "dogs," Marty gives in to peer pressure and does not phone Clara, despite his earlier anticipation of seeing her again.

But sitting at the bar with his friends the next night, Marty decides he has had enough, and defying his enclosed little world, he rushes to a phone booth to call Clara. As he goes to the phone, he turns and shouts to his friends, "You don't like her. My mother don't like her. She's a dog. And I'm a fat, ugly man. Well, all I know is I had a good time last night ... You don't like her? That's too bad!" Marty then announces that if he continues to have good times with Clara, he will beg her to marry him. He then goes to call Clara, and when Angie follows, he asks his pal when he is going to get married.

Oscar
8 Nominations
4 Awards
Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actor
Best Screenplay

Golden Globes
1 Nomination
1 Award
Best Actor
This Oscar-winning slice-of-life drama is a heartwarming story that was nominated for 8 Academy Award’s and won 4: Best Actor (Ernest Borgnine), Best Director (Delbert Mann), Best Picture (Harold Hecht) and earning Paddy Chayefsky one for Best Screenplay.

Ernest Borgnine makes every single facet of him work, and as a result we're always on his side. What he and writer Paddy Chayefsky also nicely avoid is turning Marty into a weak or pathetic character. He's not a loser or a pushover, nor is he flawed in any significant way - he's just a nice guy trying to live a decent life without upsetting those around him.

The supporting performances are excellent as well. Esther Minciotti as Marty's mother is delightful, and she and Borgnine have a special chemistry. The character is also nicely written as part caring and part meddling - like all mothers should be. Jerry Paris and Karen Steele are also good as Marty's brother Tommy and sister-in-law Virginia, as is Joe Mantell as his best friend Angie.

But the most important supporting performance comes from Blair, and what she does with Clara’s character is very interesting. She never upstages Borgnine, and in many ways she doesn't have that much conventional presence. But that's exactly what the reserved and shy Clara should be like, and we understand why Marty finds her so interesting and engaging. And of course, like Marty, she's also a bit out of the romantic loop and looking for someone to make her happy, which makes her sympathetic.

Chayefsky originally wrote “Marty” as a one-hour drama for television, which premiered on “The Philco Television Playhouse”, with Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand. He then wrote the screenplay and from anyone else, these characters could have become stereotypes, but from Chayefsky, they seem like real people you'd actually like to know. What's also very good is the way he avoids outbursts of emotion in his characters; despite the problems that begin to surface in Marty and Clara's relationship there are no histrionics or forced sad moments.

“Marty” is the sort of film that’s very easy to underestimate since, after all, how can a romance about a New York butcher possibly be engrossing? But the film is so genuine and amiable that you cannot help but become absorbed in it. It's one of the more forgotten Best Picture winners, and it really shouldn't be.