Ernest Borgnine won an Oscar from his only nomination for portraying a lonely butcher Marty Piletti in Marty.
Ernest Borgnine before this role was only ever cast as a heavy, which he did play very effectively especially in From Here to Eternity and A Bad Day At Black. He excelled quite well in these fairly simple, abrasive roles, as Marty Borgnine plays a very different role, that of a very simple butcher with rather low self-esteem. Marty is a decent guy who really tries to be nice to everyone, but he he fails to find romance.
Marty is just a normal and guy, no extreme psycho drama, here just a pleasant man, and Borgnine shows that you can bring out a great performance even out of just a character who really is a pretty normal person. Borgnine begins in the film as just a normal guy, and Borgnine adds a certain realism to the film, and his performance, since not for a second did I question that he was Marty, he just was the part instantly. I like how he shows Marty go through his daily routine at the butcher shop, and then later hanging out with his rather thin headed friend Angie (Joe Mantell). He is just great showing his normal routine of Marty, how he somewhat passively goes through the motions of the day, clearly having done them for awhile and clearly bit tired of them too.
Borgnine perfectly shows the lonely disposition of the man in these early scenes. One scene he calls a potential romantic interest, but is quickly turned down. Borgnine is perfect at showing Marty's anxiousness at first, and his shy way of talking, then he truly effective in his very honestly sad reaction to being turned down once again. An even more powerful scene comes from his talk with his mother at the dinner table. Borgnine is brilliant in this scene, as Marty talks about himself, and his inability to find any one to like him. Marty frustrations, anger, sadness about his situation, are made absolutely powerful by Borgnine, especially in the way he says the "fat ugly man" line. Borgnine simply could not be better in showing all of Marty hangups which all shown so well in this one scene.
Marty later goes to a dance which he really had no interest in but was coaxed in to it. Marty happens to come across a school teacher Clara Snyder (Betsy Blair) who was left by her blind date. Borgnine really simply lights up the screen in the scene where he first meets her. The way he can't stop talking to her, because he finds someone who actually likes him for once. He is perfect in showing Marty downright uncontrollable enthusiasm with meeting her, and the way he tries to keep her happy at the same time. The way he keeps talking being perfectly amazed at his situation, but also always asking to make sure she is still fine with him. Borgnine and Blair work perfectly together because neither forget the certain aspects of the character. They do not instantly become perfect romantics. He does not act as he really has been on a lot dates and shows the right uneasiness and enthusiasm to the situation, and Blaire still stays properly shy.
Borgnine than brings her home, and after awhile he tries to get once kiss out of her, but she does not let him. Borgnine is again absolutely great in showing how Marty just wants to stop his loneliness and her slight rejection which more of comes from her shyness, causes Marty frustrations to come out once again. Later though when he takes her home, and is told that he should call her guaranteeing another date. Borgnine shows the truly happy Marty as well as possible. But Marty chances at true love are challenged by his friends and mother who do not like Clara.I like one more time Marty going into his usual routine of loneliness and boredom. Marty though finally forgets all that, saying he can't take it anymore and calls her. Borgnine is absolutely brilliant bringing Marty to this final moment. His performance is simply a brilliant natural performance. He shows everything there was to Marty and I really felt I met someone when I met Borgnine as Marty. That is a truly great performance.