Musical theater fans, take note. Deadline reports that Fox has secured the rights to remake the classic musical “Guys and Dolls.” They hope to star Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead roles.
There are a significant number of musical fans who consider “Guys and Dolls” to be the perfect musical (I’m not one–but I’ll happily call it one of the greats). Based on the stories of Damon Runyon from the 1920s and ’30s, “Guys and Dolls” focuses on Nathan Detroit, a gangster with a gambling operation who wants to set up a floating craps game, but is short of money. He makes a bet with high-rolling gambler Sky Masterson that Masterson can’t get Sarah Brown, the do-gooding member of a Salvation Army like religious mission to go away with him to Havana (remember, this is pre-communist Cuba) for a weekend of sin, drinking, dancing, and more sin. There’s a subplot about Detroit’s long-suffering showgirl fiancee Adelaide who can’t get him to tie the knot. The most famous song from the show is “Luck Be a Lady Tonight,”
Frank Loesser wrote the music and lyrics and Abe Burrows wrote the book. The show almost won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1951, but this was at the height of the Red scare, and the award was pulled due to suspicions about Burrows’s possible involvement with communism.
The movie starred Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando respectively as Detroit and Masterson. No, Brando was not known as a singer or dancer, but in 1955 he was a hot property. Gene Kelly desperately wanted to play Masterson in the movie version of the show, but he was under contract to MGM, who wouldn’t loan him to Samuel Goldwyn, the producer of the movie (and Goldwyn did really want the rising star Brando, too). Let’s all pause a moment while we think about Kelly playing a role that seems to have been made for him, not to mention his on screen chemistry Sinatra, who starred with him in three other movies. Sigh. By the way, Nathan Lane became a star playing Nathan Detroit in a popular revival of the show in the 1990s, and Ewan McGregor played Sky Masterson in London a few years ao.
So when you musical theater geeks begin to lament Fox’s refusal to cast people with serious Broadway level singing and dancing skills, just remember that it was the same deal in 1955. Minimal singing and dancing can be fixed on screen and Hollywood has always preferred the hot name over pure talent. Tatum is a good dancer and Nathan Detroit doesn’t call for dazzling vocal skills. Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to be a passable singer and dancer; he couldn’t do it onstage for eight shows a week, but on screen, sure. As for Sarah Brown, my guess is most people will say Amanda Seyfried, but I’d suggest Anna Kendrick who is one of the few people in Hollywood who has genuine Broadway talent–more than Jean Simmons, by the way, who played the role in the 1955 movie. As for Miss Adelaide, I saw that someone suggested Megan Hilty; she also has real Broadway credits and is pretty much perfect for the role. Well, we’ll see what happens.