My Uncle Lou was a life-long bachelor who called women “dolls” and spent weekends at the racetrack. His idea of a hot date was taking a “doll” along to the racetrack on Saturday night. They’d eat dinner in the cafeteria and then he’d give her $20 to bet on any horse she wanted, but if she won, she’d have to split her earnings fifty-fifty. Either that, or pay him back the twenty.
When I graduated college, I got a job working in a museum downtown, just a few blocks from his office. We used to meet for lunch in this deli where all the waitresses knew him.
“Oh, no. Look who’s back,” one of them would say when he walked in the door.
“Hey, Lucy. Be polite. I’ve got my niece with me today.”
“You’re related to him? You have my sympathy, hon.”
“Just bring me a bowl of soup, wouldya?”
Watching “Guys and Dolls” put me in Uncle Lou’s world. Okay, he never took part in a floating craps game (to my knowledge), but he knew guys like Nathan Detroit, Harry the Horse, and Nicely Nicely Johnson. Miss Adelaide was the type of doll he’d have taken to the track, and I’m sure he’d have treated her no better than Nathan did.
But here’s the thing: Marlon Brando’s Sky Masterson had no place in that world. Leave the singing and dancing aside — you can see he was trying his best to keep up with Frank Sinatra — it’s like he’s in a different movie. I mean, the guy needs to lighten up, he’s like grim death every time he walks into a scene. Not even the lovely Jean Simmons could bring him out of his funk. Watching him woo her in a Havana nightclub was worse than having a root canal.
One final complaint: Frank Sinatra should have been the one to sing “Luck be a Lady.” Here’s Old Blue Eyes in Vegas, singing “Luck be a Lady” the way it was meant to be sung: