We love Sesame Street here at Screen Goblin, and their Monsterpiece Theater segments introduced us to some cinematic classics before we’d even heard of cinema. So as a thinly-veiled excuse to watch a bunch of old movies, we thought we’d take a look at how they measure up to Sesame Street‘s versions, starting with Guys and Dolls.
This 1955 movie adaptation of the hit Broadway musical stars Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine in an all-singing all-dancing tale of New York gamblers, missionaries, guys and dolls. With a good story, choreography and songs, it’s no surprise that this is considered one of the musical classics.
Simmons is particularly good as Sarah Brown, and she and Brando’s Sky Masterson share sparky chemistry. “Yeah, chemistry.” Blaine performs well as Miss Adelaide, and Nathan Detroit is nicely played by Sinatra, despite an apparent spat between him and Brando, and despite my co-goblin Alex hating him for some reason.
There’s some strong choreography, particularly the dance/fight sequence in Havana, with some nice lines and plenty of humour. The dialogue between songs serves as a crucial buffer, absent from the likes of Les Miserables, as is all the fun of Guys and Dolls. Most importantly, there are some great musical numbers. And some less great ones.
Some of these lesser songs could really have been cut for this film version, as two and a half hours is much too long for a movie musical. But then it’s still not as long as Les Miserables. Some of the sets look too stagey, and the whole thing would probably work better on stage. But hey, at least it’s not Les Miserables.
Interestingly, the Sesame Street version is an examination of gender roles, taking a typically progressive stance on the issue back in 1989. Like the original, this Guys and Dolls is a musical, but much more political than the 1955 version with its 1955 attitudes towards gender. Contrary to what many still believe, guys can play with dolls and girls can play with trucks, as the Monsterpiece Theater so brilliantly explain. “Some guys really like to play with dolls!” You’ll all be singing it tomorrow. This is a classic example of Sesame Street being wonderfully liberal and subversive, or brainwashing children depending on where you stand on compassion. So just watch this version, it’s so much groovier and so much shorter.
Oh and as always The Simpsons have done it too, in the superb episode Mayored to the Mob guest starring Mark Hamill in a Star Wars version of Guys and Dolls, featuring such classics as “Guys and dolls, we’re just a bunch of crazy guys and dolls,” and of course, “Luke, be a Jedi tonight…”