It’s 1955, and Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) has run a successful floating craps game in New York City for years. However, the police choose now to start cracking down on him, so everyone is a little more than skeptical to let him host it at their place. The only joint that will let him in the door is only willing to part with the space for a $1000 down payment. Knowing he could never get that kind of cash until after the game had already taken place, Nathan was out of options. So, to get the cash he made a bet with the big time gambler Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando). He bet that, even a ladies man like Sky, couldn’t get Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), a missionary with unshaking morals, to go on a date to Cuba with him. Meanwhile Nathan has to avoid getting into trouble not only with the law, but also with someone who frightens him far more, his long time fiancé (Vivian Blaine) who believes that his gambling days were over long ago.
This incredibly stylized version of NYC held a certain charm to it that made it all the more fascinating. The actors seemed to be purposefully acting it out as if they were on stage, over enunciating and not once using the word “can’t” when they could use “cannot.” I felt as if they all had speech therapists that were very proud of them, and it only made the movie that much more hilarious. The entire film was plastered with quick quips and memorable lines. Most of my favorites came from Marlon Brando, a man I never thought I would see sing and dance. The man we all know and love as the Godfather singing “Luck Be a Lady” was beyond my realm of imagination. I thought at first they had dubbed over his voice, but no, it was all him. And while his voice lacked the power and gusto I would have liked to have heard in some of these songs, he could certainly hold a note. The rest of the film was peppered with an interesting array of singers. While Frank Sinatra was as melodic as always, some others left something to be desired. However, the genius lyrics and acting compensated nicely, so by the end you are left with a surprisingly wonderful musical.
The choice of picking non-musical actors for the lead roles was a risk that paid off in the end. What the actors lacked in vocals, they more than made up for in charm and humor, especially Brando. If you want a laugh it is worth the watch.