Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vivian Blaine and Isabel Bigley – "Marry the Man Today" (1951)

Marry the man today
And change his ways tomorrow!

Guys and Dolls premiered on Broadway on this date in 1950.  

The original production won five 1951 Tony Awards (including Best Musical) and ran for 1200 performances.

It was awarded the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, but the trustees of Columbia University overruled the prize jury’s selection because Abe Burrows, who co-wrote the Guys and Dolls book, had a run-in with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Abe Burrows
On the surface, the two principal female characters of Guys and Dolls couldn’t be more different.  Miss Adelaide is a singer and dancer at the stylish Hot Box Club, while Miss Sarah is a pious young woman who works for the Save-A-Soul Mission.  But both dream of getting married to “Mr. Right” and settling down in a proverbial white-picket-fenced cottage.

Miss Adelaide has been engaged for 14 years to Nathan Detroit, who runs “the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York.”  Her brassy, sexy exterior conceals the heart of an conventional, stay-at-home housewife – Adelaide’s letters to her distant mother claim that she and Nathan have been married for years, that they have six children, and that Nathan is the assistant manager of the local A&P – but she can’t get Nathan to give up gambling and live the straight life.

Sister Sarah and the globetrotting high-roller Sky Masterson are textbook examples of the “opposites attract” dictum.  Right off the bat, they’ve got chemistry that just won’t quit.  

But Sarah resists her love-at-first-sight attraction to Sky – her homme idéal is a pipe-smoking, Brooks Brothers-clad “Scarsdale Galahad” with a “calm, steady voice” and “strong moral fiber,” and Sky is nothing like that.

When the two women meet near the end of the play, young Sarah asks the worldly-wise Adelaide if a man like Sky is capable of change.  

Adelaide is skeptical.  “For fourteen years I've tried to change Nathan,” she says.  “I’ve always thought how wonderful he would be, if he was different.”

Miss Adelaide and the
Hot Box Club dancers
Adelaide’s reply reminded me of a quote that is usually attributed to Albert Einstein:

Men marry women with the hope they will never change.  Women marry men with the hope they will change.  Invariably they are both disappointed.

That doesn’t sound much like something Einstein would say, does it?  But there are dozens of websites that attribute the quote to him, and very few that attribute it to anyone else.

Einstein (or whoever) may be right when he predicts that women who marry men hoping to change them will usually be disappointed in real life.  But we’re talking about a Broadway musical, boys and girls . . . and in Broadway musicals, the thorniest problems are no match for a song.

And so our two heroines suss out a solution to their mutual dilemma in “Marry the Man Today”:

Marry the man today
Rather than sigh in sorrow
Marry the man today
And change his ways tomorrow . . .

Marry the man today
Handle it meek and gently
Marry the man today 
And train him subsequently . . .

Marry the man today
Give him the girlish laughter
Give him your hand today
And save the fist for after!

The play’s final scene shows Adelaide and Nathan – who has given up his crap game and opened a newsstand – heading off to get married to Adelaide at the Save-A-Soul Mission.  Sarah has already gotten hitched to Sky, who has sworn off gambling and is now playing the bass drum in the mission band.  

The training of the two men will no doubt continue subsequently.  Well played, ladies!

Frank Sinatra (Nathan Detroit) with
 Vivian Blaine (Miss Adelaide) in
the 1955 "Guys and Dolls" movie
I find it interesting that “Marry the Man Today” was deleted from the 1955 movie version of Guys and Dolls, which starred Frank Sinatra as Nathan Detroit and Marlon Brando as Sky Masterson.  Maybe the producers took that song out because they thought audiences wouldn’t want to see Sinatra and Brando being wrapped around the little fingers of their dolls like a couple of pantywaists.

Broadway musicals are not known for presenting hard truths to their audiences.  But in this case, the play was more honest than the movie.

Here’s “Marry the Man Today” as sung by Vivian Blaine and Isabel Bigley, who portrayed Miss Adelaide and Sister Sarah in the original Broadway production of Guys and Dolls.  (Miss Blaine also appeared in the movie.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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