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Nostalgia for a Bygone Era Brings ‘Guys and Dolls’ Back to the Big Screen

Samantha Flaum
Getty Images
Getty Images

Some movies are timeless, others stuck in time. That’s not always a bad thing, though. Guys and Dolls is a picturesque reminder of decades gone by.

Adapted from short stories by Damon Runyon written in the 1920 and ‘30s, the now-musical was turned into a visual spectacle through the compositions of Frank Loesser (“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”) alongside a script by Jo Swerling (The Pride of the Yankees, It’s a Wonderful Life) and Abe Burrows (stage adaptation of How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying).

Guys and Dolls, Libretto and Vocal book, printed by Music Theatre International, 1978. This book was rented out to actors and actresses in the play. Photo by Goldenrowley CC BY-SA 3.0

Guys and Dolls, Libretto and Vocal book, printed by Music Theatre International, 1978. This book was rented out to actors and actresses in the play. Photo by Goldenrowley CC BY-SA 3.0

As a play, Guys and Dolls hit Broadway in 1950 and was immortalized on the silver screen in 1955, when some of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors painted an iconic picture of the age.

A high school production of Guys and Dolls.

A high school production of Guys and Dolls.

Catchy hits like “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” — never mind the eponymous “Guys and Dolls” — will forever get theater lovers and classic film buffs alike ready to dive back into the Twenties and Thirties. Check out some the most common slang from the era here:

Guys and Doll’s nostalgia is transparent. The Eastmancolor visuals make the picture undeniably Old Hollywood, and Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine’s snarky accents bring viewers back to the post-war years, if not earlier.

Vivian Blaine in ‘Something for the Boys’ trailer (cropped screenshot)

Vivian Blaine in ‘Something for the Boys’ trailer (cropped screenshot)

Even though the film is set during the Depression, the men look striking in handsome pinstripe suits and the women, dolled up (if you’ll forgive the pun), command each scene with vintage fashions. Though Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra, playing opposite Simmons and Blaine, melt hearts with their sultry tones (okay, maybe Sinatra more than Brando) and equally sultry looks to this day, a remake is officially in the works.

The performance of Marlon Brando (shown here much earlier in his career) as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz was critically acclaimed

The performance of Marlon Brando (shown here much earlier in his career) as Colonel Walter E. Kurtz was critically acclaimed

TriStar has successfully obtained the rights to the original Runyon short stories, Loesser’s musical score, and the Samuel Goldwyn Company’s go-ahead for the modern remake. With the full trifecta of power behind them, we can only hope that one of the film industry’s biggest picture houses will do the beloved classic some justice.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, it will be produced by John Goldwyn (Dexter, I’m Not There) and Marc Toberoff (I Spy), with Meyer Gottlieb (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) as executive producer.

Their work will be cut out for them. Musical fans, sometimes dedicated at cult-like levels, are already hard to please. The next few years will be even more challenging for purists as several other musicals await a modern reenactment. Cats comes out Christmas 2019 with an impressively extensive all-star cast, Steven Spielberg’s take on West Side Story is awaits a release date, and Wicked is slated for 2021.

Lizbeth Webb as Sarah Brown in the original London production of ‘Guys And Dolls’ at The Coliseum Theatre, 1953

Lizbeth Webb as Sarah Brown in the original London production of ‘Guys And Dolls’ at The Coliseum Theatre, 1953

It’s unsure when the Guys and Dolls remake will be released, but it’s more than likely that it will be a contender for that year’s Oscars. The original musical won five Tony Awards upon its premiere in 1950 and another four after its revival in 1992. The 1955 film was nominated for four Oscars and won two Golden Globe Awards.

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Oklahoma! beat out Guys and Dolls in the 28th Academy Awards for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, so superstitious fans will have to keep their fingers crossed that its remake isn’t in the works in the next couple years.