November 24, 1950 – The Musical “Guys and Dolls” Opened in NYC

This is one of my top five favorite musicals. It was based on two short stories by Damon Runyan – “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure” and also incorporates some elements from other Damon Runyon short stories. The musical was written by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser.

American author and journalist, Damon Alfred Runyon (1884 – 1946). (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

The Broadway play premiered in 1950. It ran for 1200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The play was also selected as the winner of the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. However, because of writer Abe Burrows’ troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the Trustees of Columbia University vetoed the selection, and no Pulitzer for Drama was awarded that year.

The film verson in 1955, starred – improbably – Marlon Brando as the romantic lead-singing roll against Jean Simmons, and the two main supporting roles were played by Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine. I loved the movie and I loved how the casting added to the campiness of the story.

This is the chorus from the title song, one of the most clever set of lyrics you’ll hear anywhere:

When you see a guy reach for stars in the sky
You can bet that he’s doing it for some doll.
When you spot a John waiting out in the rain
Chances are he’s insane as only a John can be for a Jane.
When you meet a gent paying all kinds of rent
For a flat that could flatten the Taj Mahal.
Call it sad, call it funny.
But it’s better than even money
That the guy’s only doing it for some doll.
When you see a Joe saving have of his dough
You can bet there’ll be mink in it for some doll.
When a bum buys wine like a bum can’t afford
It’s a cinch that the bum is under the thumb of some little broad.
When you meet a mug lately out of the jug
And he’s still lifting platinum folderol
Call it hell, call it heaven
But it’s probable twelve to seven
That the guy’s only doing it for some doll.

(interlude)

When you see a sport and his cash has run short
Make a bet that he’s banking it with some doll.
When a guy wears tails with the front gleaming white
Who the hell do you think he’s tickling pink on Saturday night?
When a lazy slob takes a goody steady job,
And he smells from vitalis and barbasol.
Call it dumb, call it clever
Ah, but you can get odds forever
That the guy’s only doing it for some doll
Some doll, some doll
The guy’s only doing it for
some doll!

Here is the wonderful video of Frank Sinatra, Stubby Kaye, and Johnny Silver singing “Guys and Dolls” (1955):

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2 Responses to November 24, 1950 – The Musical “Guys and Dolls” Opened in NYC

  1. Lana says:

    I love Guys and Dolls – both musical and movie. In the movie, I really missed the My Time of Day song, but I really loved the ‘Woman in Love’ song that they added instead.

    My favorite bit in the movie is in that very song where he’s backing away from her and doing the little boxer thing with his thumb against his cheek. Awwwww…

  2. Thanks for the comment. I thought Brando did a great job, even though the critics didn’t like him.

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