MovieChat Forums > Marty (1955) Discussion > Betsy Blair's too good looking

Betsy Blair's too good looking


I think this is a nice movie with a good message. But having been something of a Marty myself over my life, I thought Betsy Blair was a bit too good looking for the role. I suppose she had to be: Hollywood wouldn't tolerate a really plain-looking woman in such a leading role. It would take a John Waters film of the 70's and 80's for that (say, Polyester).

When Marty says to her "you're not such a dog," I half expected her to say, "But you are." That's probably the reality for most men like Marty in this world.

It's wonderful that he got a break and met a wonderful person like her, by being kind and decent. But you can't count on that.

"Extremism in the pursuit of moderation is no vice."

reply

yeah i think she just had a bad haircut, that's all.
didn't ruin the movie for me though, i think there are a lot more ugly men than there are ugly women. maybe i'm naive. also you could say, maybe she wasn't ugly, but she was very shy and inexperienced.

reply

I'm watching this on AMC with my dad (nearly 80 years old). I don't find Betsy Blair to be plain at all and I asked him why was she considered a dog? He said back then, women were desirable if they were built like Marilyn Monroe or Jane Russell. Betsy Blair was considered a dog back then not because of her face but because she's skinny and flat chested.

I'm not sure that I totally buy it, but he was alive in the 1950s and I wasn't, so there it is.

reply


I disagree - Blair was perfectly cast. She's supposed to be a plain
Jane whose loveliness comes from within. That was Blair. She wasn't
ugly (when I went to school, "plain" wasn't ugly; it was "plain"), but
she was hardly a beauty.

reply

I believe that Betsy Blair was married to Cary Grant so she obviously was no plain

reply

opps - I'm wrong - Betsy was married to Gene Kelly

Grant was married to betsy Drake

reply

[deleted]

Shoot - I'd take Cary or Gene! Both great looking, talented, and I think, for the most part, decent people.

reply

I agree, although I preferred Astaire to Kelly....

reply

I'd take Cary and Gene at the same time.

reply

good for you - I agree (and I was born in 1937).

Ilania Abileah
Artist, and Culture Reporter

reply

I love this movie and I think Betsy Blair's character is sweet, but to call her "dog" throughout the movie is really insulting. She was no dog. She was quite pretty in a plain Jane kind of way. Your Dad is right about how the ideal women were seen in the 1950s - curvy like Marilyn and Jane were considered the ideal.

reply

excellent point--cant add anymore--""""women were desirable if they were built like Marilyn Monroe or Jane Russell. Betsy Blair was considered a dog back then not because of her face but because she's skinny and flat chested""""

reply

Well, clothing attire can make a heaps of difference regarding how someone is rendered attractive. The way she was dressed compared to the way the other fashionable women were dressed at the dance was a big difference. She looked like a librarian with the buttoned up all the way to the neck blouse.

reply

"Dog" is also about attitude. Clara was a school teacher, wasn't a flashy dresser and didn't put out. She was a nice girl, like Marty said. This will get her typed as a prude whether she is or not. The guy who brought her said he wanted to end up with "something" at the end of the evening. He wasn't going to get "something" with Clara.

Let's just say that God doesn't believe in me.

reply

I agree with those who say that "plain" doesn't have to mean "ugly." Take a look at this movie poster:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030092/

In the front is Lili Liliana, who has been called "plain and beautiful." She conveyed a sense of "chaste beauty." Unfortunately, she seems to have perished in the Holocaust.

"Extremism in the pursuit of moderation is no vice."

reply

[deleted]

I agree with the OP's assessement. The film still works, but it would have been even better if they'd cast a less attractive actress, to drive the point home (that looks don't really matter when it comes to real love).

"Did you make coffee...? Make it!"--Cheyenne.

reply

You're nuts, OP. Blair was hardly a looker. Take another look at her in profile, with that semi-creepy sloping nose. You make her sound like a close approximation of Lana Turner or something! Besides the looks department, she is extremely shy and softspoken, in a way that would probably be annoying to most men. If this film were made in the 80s you can bet that they'd take somebody like Demi Moore and give her braces, or adorn her with some other cheap distraction to make her appear like plain-Jane dork when it's clear she really isn't. Ernest Borgnine would've been replaced by by Andrew McCarthy or some other rat pack twerp. He would've been an angst-ridden office guy instead of a butcher. John Waters? His films are absurd to the extreme and can't be taken seriously in the way that Marty can. I don't see how you can possibly compare John Waters films to this one, as if John Waters "did it right." Preposterous.

reply

Well, I mention the Waters films because he's the only one who had the audacity to take a really ugly 'woman' and put her in a romantic role.

Here's an excerpt, in French, from Polyester:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wX5ffNPoPg&feature=autoplay&list=QL&index=1&playnext=2


I think Blair and Borgnine were decent choices for this film. I just think the film has a bit of the quality of the "fairy tale," since Blair would probably have been "out of his league" in real life.

"Extremism in the pursuit of moderation is no vice."

reply

No, she was not out of his league. although she was better educated than Marty, Claire was friendless and trapped by her smothering parents. marty had comrades and the respect of his neighbors. Claire was approaching the age past fertility. marty was too old for a sweet young catholic virgin and he did not seek the affections of good-time girls.

reply


"No, she was not out of his league. although she was better educated than Marty, Claire was friendless and trapped by her smothering parents. marty had comrades and the respect of his neighbors. Claire was approaching the age past fertility. marty was too old for a sweet young catholic virgin and he did not seek the affections of good-time girls."

ellysway,
they both had college degrees, she didn't have more education than marty did. she chose to be a teacher, he chose to be a butcher.

claire was 29, that's hardly close to the end of fertility. some women still conceive in their late 40's. marty was 34, only 5 years old than claire. he wasn't too old for a nice girl like claire- obviously.

reply

Marty didn't have a degree--his father died as he was finishing high school and he had to work. I agree they were an OK match, though I think Marty would have been getting more action. All those women coming to him hungry for meat...

reply

Although Claire says she's 29, I think its pretty apparent that she's lying about her age and she's much older.

But... your point is still valid - she still has some child bearing years left.

reply

He didn't choose to be a butcher, he said it wasn't his choice. Marty got out of the military at age 25 and didn't know what to do with his life, he was depressed about it he contemplated suicide. He was offered a job at the butcher store and his family and friends encouraged him to take it, it wasn't a career he sought or choose.

Siri
Don't Make Me Have to Release the Flying Monkeys!


reply

You're right that they would have done the same thing in the '80s (or later: look at the pairing in a sitcom like "King of Queens"), but it would have been bogus then too. The whole pattern of matching up unattractive guys with attractive women is shady regardless of the era.

--------
My top 250: http://www.flickchart.com/Charts.aspx?user=SlackerInc&perpage=250

reply

Her role here is like Julie Harris in Requiem for a Heavyweight. Julie Harris could look very attractive or dowdy depending on the role. In Requiem she attracts the attention of Anthony Quinn who wants to go with her, But he is a boxer in a brutal business who has been that battered look from too many fights. She is a shy person frightened by the violence surrounding him.



I don't know everything. Neither does anyone else

reply

I'm not sure what your point is. First of all, I've met plenty of classically beautiful women who had low self confidence, and thought they were "dogs". It's not always a matter of looking pretty, you have to feel pretty too.

And as to your main point of less attractive men dating "beautiful" women, you simply have to grow up and get out of the high school mentality. I'm average at best, and have dated women with beautiful faces and figures that got comments everywhere they went. They dated me, not a stereotype of who should be with who.

The "kind and decent" part is something you just have to find by trial and error.

reply

I think that the film addresses the fact that Betsy Blair was actually not bad-looking at all when Marty looks at her face--very prettily lit and smiling--and says, "You have a really nice face."

Of course, they dressed her like a schoolmarm and gave her an awful haircut--but Clara was clearly not all that unattractive.

reply

I dunno...she looked like Agnes Moorhead from that one Twilight Zone episode where she's getting attacked by little aliens.

reply

As far as defining ugly, I like to paraphrase Forrest Gump: Ugly is as ugly does. Some of the ugliest women I've ever met would otherwise be called gorgeous, but because they often get so wrapped up in themselves, using their looks as a weapon, I call that ugly.

I connect with this movie because I married someone like Clara: not considered "pretty" by the definition of what should be on a magazine cover, but by the kind of person she is on the inside. My wife is truly beautiful, and I was able to see that by our second date, when I proposed to her. (Don't try this at home) We have six children, two grandchildren, and have been married for 33 years. I'm still waiting for the honeymoon to end. Guess I'll stop holding my breath now.

My wife was a schoolteacher when we met. She is smart, well-educated, and very sensible. She is the emotionally steady one; I tend to be more of the up-and-down guy, though age has cured a lot of that. I like to make her clam chowder; I hate it but she loves it, so she gets clam chowder. We ate at Monterey's Fish House on Monday night, and she said my chowder was much better. I totally hit the lottery when I married this woman. And now I'm going to sign off and go kiss her.

reply

Blackhawks, what a beautiful and touching post. Your wife sounds like a jewel--lucky you; lucky her!

Now, I'm gonna change my name to Bruinswincup2011. ;)


reply

Thank you--she is that. In fact, you quoted my uncle after he first met her: "John, you got a jewel."

reply

[deleted]

(Don't try this at home)


...You, sir, I do not know if you're a wonderful person or not. You certainly however are a wonderful poster at least.

Honestly got touched by that post. Wishing you the best. And if my timing is ok, go give her yet one kiss more, telling her "somebody having clouds in his name asked me to do that 'cause as he put it, we deserve it".

reply

Her character is supposed to be ugly, a total "dog" in the eyes of most of the other characters. It's what I call "Hollywood Ugly", where they take an actually pretty gal and maybe do something superficially unflattering (glasses, dorky hair, unfashionable clothes, unglamorous job, nerdy interests etc....) and attempt to portray her as undesirable and ugly.

I saw the film as a teenager (and didn't think she was ugly then) and recently (age 49) and she looked fine to me.

Part of this casting mistake probably has the result of manipulating some audience members into thinking that all of the characters in the movie who thinks she's ugly must be absolutely total blind idiots. In fact, even Marty at one point acknowledges that sure, she's ugly, but maybe not THAT bad.

It's like that Twilight Zone (or was it Hitchcock?) episode where all these weird looking aliens keep referring to the deformed and grotesque patient in the hospital and at the end when the audience finally sees her (or was it him?) she's just a normal looking fairly attractive human.


reply

I don't think Betsy Blair as Clara was a "casting mistake"--she was actually perfect for the part. Clara/Betsy is certainly not ugly, but also certainly not a beauty--she is what she is; a normal, semi-attractive woman who steals Marty's heart despite the jealous and insecurity-driven "warnings" of his friends and family.

It's great casting and BB gives a touching, poignant performance.


reply

I was watching this again last night as part of TCM's tribute to Ernest Borgnine. The thing that always strikes me is that none of these guys who refer to plain girls as "dogs" are in the running for Prince Charming either. They all want beautiful girls but they're not much to look at themselves. Ms. Blair, while married to Gene Kelly at the time, was not a raving beauty but a pleasant looking lady and, imho, well cast.

The thing about these two characters is that they connected. They spent three hours "just talking" as she tells her folks. My husband and I met over a major company's computer system (a few years before the Internet as we know it). We had one brief phone conversation and then he phoned me one Saturday afternoon. We talked for more than two hours! It might have been longer but I had to leave to attend a party at a co-worker's house. We phone-dated for three months before we ever met in person. We connected. We'll be married 25 years next April and neither of us are 'beautiful' but we really love each other and he thinks I'm pretty even when I don't.

reply



What sweet stories some of you have told.
Your spouses are lucky to have you.

I do think Bestsy was a little too attractive for the role.
Borgnine was a dog. Betsy certainly was not.
I thought they had a nerve calling her that.















.
http://theobamafile.com/index.htm

reply

he thinks I'm pretty even when I don't


...that's the trick that does it for the film as well : to think otherwise than what the person in question does about one's self.


- - - - -



Now as for the OP's issue about Blair having been miscast, I do not agree. Everything that "Clara" stood for, was "unattractive" in most peoples eyes (her natural looks, her demeanor, her ethics, her dress code etc). She didn't have to be "real *beep* ugly" (here IMDB's scripts are gonna put some asterisks from what I presume, but you get what I meant anyway), or even "more average" than she already was so as to be called "a dog" by either that low-life opportunist that took her to the "Stardust" in the first place, or by those friends of Marty's that could only appreciate as "non-dogs" some slutty enough nurses or others of the like.
Plus, no matter what Blair is considered to have been, regarding looks, the way she is portrayed in the film, as "Clara", is not somebody you'd call a "dog", yet she simply is not the attractive type either - the one your mice will go click as soon as you see her. And like I said a few lines before, that's the idea : Marty (who himself wasn't "ugly" at all as well) manages to see beyond what the others are CONSTANTLY telling him, trying to (directly or indirectly) define his very own life : that it's a shame that certain people are being outcast as "dogs", even when they actually are not THAT "unattractive", without even been given the chance to show to the world qualities that do matter, after a first visual impression, or even after one night's stand.

So the way I see it, what the film is trying to convey is not the message that "even ugly people have a right to companionship", but "judging by superficial standards is what actually is ugly in the deal". 'Cause both "Marty" and "Clara", weren't ugly looking freaks anyway. Not by chance - not because the director couldn't get some even less appealing figures for his film, but because he didn't want them to be different than what we eventually saw. So no need then that they should have cast other than Mrs Blair.

reply

It was an episode of the original Twilight Zone series called "Eye of the Beholder." Donna Douglas, later to play Elly May on The Beverly Hillbillies, was the (by our standards) stunningly beautiful woman who in her world was so hideous that she had to be sent into exile.

reply