This article is also published at Immortal Marilyn
Films Marilyn Wanted: Guys and Dolls
Born in Manhattan, Kansas in 1880 to a family of newspapermen, Damon Runyon found fame as a baseball columnist, and later for his humorous short stories chronicling the vibrant street life of New York. His eccentric characters – gamblers, hustlers and crooks – and unique style, mixing formal speech with slang – inspired a new literary idiom, the ‘Runyonesque’.
In 1950, four years after Runyon’s death, Guys and Dolls opened on Broadway. Based on two of Runyon’s short stories – ‘The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown’ and ‘Blood Pressure’ – the play was scripted by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerling, with music by Frank Loesser. A box office hit, Guys and Dolls was selected as the winner of 1951’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama. However, due to Abe Burrows’ troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee, the award was withdrawn.
Despite the controversy, producer Samuel Goldwyn acquired the film rights to Guys and Dolls. The screenplay was written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who would also direct. Uncredited assistance came from another Hollywood scribe, Ben Hecht. Gene Kelly was an early front-runner for the lead role as charming gambler Sky Masterson, but MGM would not release him. Goldwyn sought out the screen’s hottest young actor, Marlon Brando, instead. Jean Simmons was cast as Brando’s unlikely love interest, prudish missionary Sarah Brown.
After securing America’s favourite crooner, Frank Sinatra, as hustler Nathan Detroit, Goldwyn set his sights on the world’s reigning sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe, for the part of Sinatra’s showgirl fiancée, Miss Adelaide. With so much talent involved, Guys and Dolls could hardly fail – or could it? Continue reading