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Guys and Dolls Review

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Nathan Detroit, famous New York gambler is short on funds to finance a big craps game, so accepts a bet that he can't get a striaght-laced female missionary to go to Havana with him. But she's more than he bargained for.

★★★★★

Guys And Dolls is pretty much the most foolproof of the great musicals. For one thing, it was adapted from the eternally hilarious stories of Broadway’s lovably bawdy bandits (in particular the sweetly tall tale, The Idyll Of Miss Sarah Brown) by America’s wittiest, most original humourist, legendary newspaper man Damon Runyon. For another, composer-lyricist Frank Loesser’s vigorous, colourful, character-full tunes are rich with distinctively Runyonesque flavour: “When you see a gent/paying all kinds of rent/on a flat that could flatten the Taj Mahal...” Poor indeed is the performer who can’t bring an audience to its feet with showstoppers like Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat. Putting Ewan McGregor into it for the 2005 West End production was as certain a winner as its high-player hero himself, gambler-in-love Sky Masterson.

Back in the 1950s, when Sam Goldwyn saw the show in New York, it was inevitable his excitement would bring together the best star talent available for the film version. Writer-director Joe Mankiewicz had never done a musical, but was atop the A-list and genuinely loved the New York fable. Marlon Brando as a singer is charmingly weedy, but he has the only thing without which you cannot be Sky — sexy charisma. Frank Sinatra seethed at not being cast as Sky, but grudgingly got on board when Mankiewicz bolstered crap game-promoter Nathan Detroit’s story — and he played it great. Beauty Jean Simmons had proven chemistry with Brando, having starred with him in romantic drama Desirée the previous year, and does the prim miss unbuttoning her passion to perfection. More brainwaves were getting Vivian Blaine to reprise the role she originated on Broadway, immortal Hot Box chantoosey Miss Adelaide, and retaining choreographer Michael Kidd, whose athletic ballets and Havana hanky-panky contribute to the great, vibrant fun this picture always is.

Still one of the most thrilling and thoroughly entertaining of all musicals.

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