Cover of Marty (1954)
I started this blog with the combined goal of discussing movies and purging any hidden bits of my childhood dysfunction. Discussing movies and my memories of seeing them for the first time turned out to be the easy part. The purging is another story entirely. I'm not under the illusion that people actually want to read about how my semi-twisted upbringing affected my life. But in this case, it's part and parcel of my experience of Marty.
You might have noticed there was a long absence after my last post. I wore myself out doing the tourist thing with out-of-own company for almost two weeks, and then caught an aggressive summer cold. After lying around in bed at home for what seemed like months (but was really only a few days), I decided I needed a change of scenery. So I ensconced myself in the reclining chair in the living room. I gathered the essentials on the table next to me: a box of Kleenex, Tiger Balm to rub under my nose to help me breathe better and a cup of herbal tea. Then I flipped on the TV and found that Marty was set to begin in a few minutes.
Ever since I wrote about Marty on May 1, I had the nagging feeling I had been a little harsh in my assessment of it. For whatever my faults might be, I like to think I'm fair. So I decided to give Marty another try.
The beginning of the movie was as I remembered it: the interactions between the men in the coffee shop felt like they were based on bad beat poetry. I felt pretty smug that the assessment I had made all those years ago was correct. But being in a weakened state with little initiative to search for something else, I continued to watch anyway. And I'm glad I did, because suddenly the movie took a turn and I started to enjoy it. The way people interacted in the dance hall was actually fascinating to me and the romantic chemistry between the two main characters (played by Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair) was palpable.
As I watched, I steeled myself for the nagging mother to come onto the screen. The woman who appeared instead was actually a kind woman who was just concerned about her son and overly manipulated by her nagging sister. (The sister, Marty's aunt, is the stuff of which nightmares are made.)
Since I had made reference in my last review to the "nagging mother" and how I didn't need to watch her on the screen because I could find that in my own living room while growing up, I was quite surprised that this character wasn't who I thought she was. Because of the disparity between my perception of that character and the reality, I added a sick feeling in my stomach to the runny nose, sore throat and headache I already had when I sat down to watch the movie.
I had projected my own mother onto this poor woman. Marty's mom was actually a good-hearted sort who really loved her child. Hmm. My mother loved us, too, in the only way she knew how. But she didn't convey any of the warmth of Marty's mother.
Who cares? you might be asking. The significance probably only applies to me, but I thought it was fascinating that the image I carry inside of my mother had warped my perception so much. My stomach ache came from questioning just exactly how many other things I had projected onto dear old Mom. And I wonder if I'll ever even know the answer to that.