Guys and Dolls (film)

Guys and Dolls is a 1955 American musical film starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine. The film was made by Samuel Goldwyn Productions and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). It was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who also wrote the screenplay. The film is based on the 1950 Broadway musical by composer and lyricist Frank Loesser, with a book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, which, in turn, was loosely based on "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure", two short stories by Damon Runyon.[1] Dances were choreographed by Michael Kidd, who had also staged the dances for the Broadway production.

Guys and Dolls
Theatrical poster
Directed byJoseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced bySamuel Goldwyn
Screenplay byJoseph L. Mankiewicz
Ben Hecht
Based onGuys and Dolls
by Abe Burrows (book)
Jo Swerling (book)
Frank Loesser
(music and lyrics)
Damon Runyon (stories)
Music byFrank Loesser
CinematographyHarry Stradling
Edited byDaniel Mandell
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 3, 1955 (1955-11-03)
Running time
150 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$5.5 million
Box office$20 million

At Samuel Goldwyn and Joseph L. Mankiewicz's request, Frank Loesser wrote three new songs for the film: "Pet Me Poppa", "(Your Eyes Are the Eyes of) A Woman in Love", and "Adelaide", the last written specifically for Sinatra. Five songs in the stage musical were omitted from the movie: "A Bushel and a Peck", "My Time of Day", "I've Never Been in Love Before" (although portions of these three songs are heard instrumentally as background music), "More I Cannot Wish You" and "Marry the Man Today".


Gambler Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) seeks to organize an unlicensed crap game, but the police, led by Lieutenant Brannigan (Robert Keith), are "putting on the heat". All the places where Nathan usually holds his games refuse him entry due to Brannigan's intimidating pressure. The Biltmore garage is the only venue where Nathan can hold the game, but its owner requires a $1,000 security deposit, which Nathan doesn't have. Adding to his problems, Nathan's fiancée, Miss Adelaide (Vivian Blaine), a nightclub singer, wants to bring an end to their 14-year engagement and actually tie the knot. She also wants him to go straight, but organizing illegal gambling is the only thing he's good at.

Then Nathan spots an old acquaintance, Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), a gambler willing to bet on virtually anything and for high amounts. To win the $1,000 security deposit, Nathan bets Sky that he can't take a girl of Nathan's choosing to dinner in Havana, Cuba. The bet seems impossible for Sky to win when Nathan nominates Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), a sister at the Save a Soul Mission, which opposes gambling.

To approach Sarah, Sky pretends that he is a gambler who wants to change. Sky suggests a bargain. He will get a dozen sinners into the Mission for her Thursday night meeting in return for her having dinner with him in Havana. With General Matilda Cartwright (Kathryn Givney) threatening to close the Broadway branch for lack of participation, Sarah has little choice left, and agrees to the date.

Meanwhile, confident that he will win his bet with Sky, Nathan has gathered together all the gamblers, including a visitor that Harry the Horse (Sheldon Leonard) has invited: Big Jule (B.S. Pully), a Chicago mobster. When Lieutenant Brannigan appears, Benny Southstreet (Johnny Silver), covers it up by claiming that they are celebrating the fact that Nathan is getting married to Adelaide. Nathan is shocked by this, but is forced to play along. Later he realizes he has lost his bet and must marry Adelaide.

Over the course of their short stay in Cuba, Sky manages to break down Sarah's social inhibitions and they begin to fall in love. They return to Broadway at dawn and meet the Save a Soul Mission band, which, on Sky's advice, has been parading all night. At that moment police sirens can be heard, and before they know it, the gamblers led by Nathan Detroit are hurrying out of a back room of the Mission, where they took advantage of the empty premises to hold the crap game.

The police arrive too late to make any arrests, but Lieutenant Brannigan finds the absence of Sarah and the other Save a Soul members too convenient to have been a coincidence. He implies that it was all Sky's doing. Sarah is equally suspicious that Sky has had something to do with organizing the crap game at the Mission and she angrily takes her leave of him, refusing to accept his denials.

Sky still has to make good his arrangement with Sarah to provide sinners to the Mission. Sarah would rather forget the whole thing, but Uncle Arvide Abernathy (Regis Toomey), who acts as a kind of father figure to her, warns Sky that "If you don't make that marker good, I'm going to buzz it all over town you're a welcher."

Nathan has continued the crap game in a sewer. With his revolver visible in its shoulder holster, Big Jule, who has lost all his money, forces Nathan to play against him while he cheats, cleaning Nathan out. Sky enters and knocks Big Jule down and removes his pistol. Sky, who has been stung and devastated by Sarah's rejection, lies to Nathan that he lost the bet about taking her to Havana, and pays Nathan the $1,000. Nathan tells Big Jule he now has money to play him again, but Harry the Horse says that Big Jule can't play without cheating because "he cannot make a pass to save his soul". Sky overhears this, and the phrasing inspires him to make a bold bet: He will roll the dice, and if he loses, he will give all the other gamblers $1,000 each; if he wins, they are all to attend a prayer meeting at the Mission.

The Mission is near to closing when suddenly the gamblers come parading in, taking up most of the room. Sky won the roll. They grudgingly confess their sins, though they show little sign of repentance. Nicely-Nicely Johnson (Stubby Kaye) however, recalling a dream he had the night before, seems to have an authentic connection to the Mission's aim, and this satisfies everyone.

When Nathan tells Sarah that Sky lost the Cuba bet, which she knows he won, she hurries off in order to make up with him.

It all ends with a double wedding in the middle of Times Square, with Sky marrying Sarah, and Nathan marrying Adelaide.



Robert Alda had originated the role of Sky Masterson on Broadway in 1950. For the movie, Gene Kelly at first seemed a serious candidate for the part, but it went to Marlon Brando, partly because MGM would not loan Kelly for the production, but mainly because Goldwyn wanted to cast Brando, the world's biggest box office draw by a wide margin at that time. The film ended up being distributed by MGM, Kelly's home studio. Frank Sinatra had coveted the role of Sky Masterson, and relations between him and Brando were strained. Hollywood critic James Bacon quotes Sinatra telling director Joe Mankiewicz, "When Mumbles is through rehearsing, I'll come out".[3] Sinatra had also been considered for the part of Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront;[4] both roles went to Brando.

Since Betty Grable was not available to play Miss Adelaide, Goldwyn cast Vivian Blaine, who had originated the role onstage.[5] Marilyn Monroe had wanted the part of Adelaide, but a telephone request from her did not influence Joe Mankiewicz, who wanted Blaine from the original production.[6]

Goldwyn wanted Grace Kelly for Sarah Brown, the Save-a-Soul sister. When she turned the part down because of other commitments, Goldwyn tried Deborah Kerr, who was also unavailable. The third choice was Jean Simmons, who had recently played opposite Brando in Désirée. Goldwyn was surprised by Simmons' sweet voice and strong acting and ultimately believed the love story worked better in the film than onstage. "I'm so happy" he said after seeing the rushes one day "that I couldn't get Grace Kelly". Director Joe Mankiewicz later called Simmons "the dream ... a fantastically talented and enormously underestimated girl. In terms of talent, Jean Simmons is so many heads and shoulders above most of her contemporaries, one wonders why she didn't become the great star she could have been."[7]

The producers removed the stage’s two biggest songs, “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “A Bushel and a Peck,” and replaced them with “Adelaide” and “Pet Me Poppa.”

The musical numbers performed by Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando were sung by the actors themselves, without dubbing by professional singers.[8][9][10]

In addition to Blaine, Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully, and Johnny Silver all repeated their Broadway roles in the film.

Awards and honors

In 2004, the AFI ranked the song "Luck Be a Lady" at #42 on their list of the 100 greatest film songs, AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs. In 2006 Guys and Dolls ranked #23 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.


Guys and Dolls opened on November 3, 1955, to mostly positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 90% out of 29 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.7/10.[12] Casting Marlon Brando has long been somewhat controversial, although Variety wrote "The casting is good all the way."[13] This was the only Samuel Goldwyn film released through MGM. With an estimated budget of over $5 million, it garnered rentals in excess of $13 million. Variety ranked it as the No. 1 moneymaking film of 1956.[14] Guys and Dolls went on to gross $1.1 million in the United Kingdom, $1 million in Japan, and over $20 million globally.

According to MGM records, the film earned $6,801,000 in the U.S. and Canada and $2,262,000 elsewhere, resulting in a total of $9,063,000.[15]

See also



  1. "Damon Runyon". Authors. The eBooks-Library. Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  2. Kurtti, Jeff (1996). The Great Hollywood Musical Trivia Book. New York: Applause Books. p. 41. ISBN 1-55783-222-6.
  3. Pictures Will Talk, Kenneth L. Geist, p. 258
  4. On the Waterfront (1954) – Trivia
  5. Goldwyn, A. Scott Berg, p. 472
  6. Pictures Will Talk, Geist, p. 256
  7. Pictures Will Talk, Geist, p. 258
  8. "Guys and Dolls film to be remade". The Daily Telegraph. Chilton, Martin. April 25, 2013. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  9. Bacon, James (29 May 1955). "Goldwyn Sets Precedents in 'Guys, Dolls'". Reading Eagle (Associated Press). Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  10. "Jean Simmons: Actress who dazzled opposite the likes of Marlon Brando, Kirk Douglas and Laurence Olivier". The Independent. 26 January 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  11. "NY Times: Guys and Dolls". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-12-22.
  13. "Film Reviews: Guys and Dolls". Variety. November 2, 1955. p. 6. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  14. "109 Top Money Films of 1956". Variety. January 2, 1957. p. 1. Retrieved April 24, 2019.
  15. "The Eddie Mannix Ledger". Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study{{inconsistent citations}} Cite journal requires |journal= (help).

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