Song of the Day #4,448: ‘Luck Be a Lady’ – Marlon Brando

Continuing my personal ranking of the 25 movie musicals deemed essential by the American Film Institute…

#8. Guys and Dolls – 1955
(#23 on the AFI list)

Frank Sinatra fared well in my rankings, with his two AFI-recognized films placing at #11 (On the Town) and now #8. Sinatra’s film career is almost as impressive as his singing career, with multiple comedic and dramatic roles, an Academy Award (for 1953’s From Here to Eternity), several films as a producer and one as a director.

Sinatra is a treat in Guys and Dolls, but it’s his co-star Marlon Brando who really made this film for me. Brando as a song-and-dance man is not something I expected to encounter during this project.

Based on a 1950 Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls centers on a bet between suave gambler Sky Masterson (Brando) and down-on-his-luck Nathan Detroit (Sinatra). In order to raise money for a craps game, Detroit bets that Masterson can’t land a date with Sergeant Sarah Brown (Jean Simmons), the head of a local anti-gambling mission.

Meanwhile, Detroit is being pressured to marry his fiancé of 14 years, Adelaide (played hilariously by Vivian Blaine). As in On the Town, this film succeeds in large part because of the great roles given to its female leads.

The dialogue is frequently hilarious, and the world of street-smart guys and hard-to-get dolls is beautifully established. With its unique language and setting, the film has an almost comic book sensibility at times.

Brando’s Masterson is effortlessly cool, and he suffuses the character with the depth and nuance you’d expect from the greatest actor of his generation. It doesn’t even matter that he’s a mediocre singer, at best.

Sinatra was apparently upset that he lost the lead role to Brando, and the two didn’t get along very well on set. Annoyed by Brando’s process, he reportedly told director Joe Mankiewicz, “When Mumbles is through rehearsing, I’ll come out.”

Guys and Dolls was nominated for four Oscars — Costume Design, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Score — but didn’t win any. Sinatra was nominated the same year for Best Actor in The Man With the Golden Arm, which probably took away some of the sting of playing second fiddle to Brando.

They call you Lady Luck
But there is room for doubt
At times you have a very unladylike way of running out

You’re on this date with me
The pickings have been lush
And yet before this evening is over you might give me the brush

You might forget your manners
You might refuse to stay
And so the best that I can to is pray

Luck be a lady tonight
Luck be a lady tonight
Luck if you’ve ever been a lady to begin with
Luck be a lady tonight

Luck let a gentleman see
How nice a dame you can be
I’ve seen the way you’ve treated other guys you’ve been with
Luck be a lady with me

A lady doesn’t leave her escort
It isn’t fair, it isn’t nice
A lady doesn’t wander all over the room
And blow on some other guy’s dice

So let’s keep the party polite
Never get out of my sight
Stick with me baby, I’m the fellow you came in with
Luck be a lady
Luck be a lady
Luck be a lady tonight

Luck be a lady tonight
Luck be a lady tonight
Luck, if you’ve ever been a lady to begin with
Luck be a lady tonight

Luck let a gentleman see
Luck let a gentleman see
How nice a dame you can be
How nice a dame you can be
I know the way you’ve treated other guys you’ve been with
Luck me a lady, a lady, be a lady with me
Luck be a lady with me

A Lady wouldn’t flirt with strangers
She’d have a heart, she’d have a soul
A lady wouldn’t make little snake eyes at me
When I’ve got my life on this roll

So let’s keep the party polite
Let’s keep the party polite
Never get out of my sight
Never get out of my sight
Luck be a lady
Luck be a lady
Luck be a lady tonight

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,448: ‘Luck Be a Lady’ – Marlon Brando

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    I’m obviously well familiar with this song, but have never seen the show or movie. Looks like another one to add to a growing list.

  2. Amy says:

    Love Sinatra’s comment about “Mumbles” rehearsing. Yup, it looks as if we may have a handful of musicals to add to our movie nights. I’d love to see some of these added to the classic movie line ups at local cinemas.

  3. Peg says:

    Love this musical! This song is one of Sinatra’s classics. We saw a broadway revival many years ago and loved it. Adelaide is a wonderful character and her song “A girl could develop a cold” is priceless. Need to see this again!

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