THE world of Damon Runyon's stories was circumscribed: New York's fabulous Broadway. This world is populated by a motley crew of eccentrics, non-conformists, Salvation Army do-gooders, or just plain irresponsibles: gamblers, night-club entertainers, and various categories of "jerks". It is this world, and these people, that are found in Guys and Dolls, a musical comedy originally described in the programme as a "fable of Broadway".
The curtain rises on Broadway -- the restless movement of its varied personalities and its feverish atmosphere beautifully captured in George S. Kaufman's direction. Three gamblers -- Nicely-Nicely, Benny and Rusty Charlie -- are soon found pouring over the day's racing form in a studied effort to pick the day's winners ("Fugue for Tinhorns"). Near by is the Save-a-Soul Mission of the Salvation Army, directed by Arvide Abernathy ("Follow the Fold"). Here Sky Masterson, a happy-go-lucky sort of fellow, meets the Salvation Army lass, Sarah Brown. He finds her fair game for his romantic sport. But Sarah tells him in no uncertain terms that he is not her kind of man, and that when such a man comes along she will know ("I'll Know").
At the Hot Spot night-club chorus girls are going through one of their routines ("A Bushel and a Peck"). One of these entertainers, Adelaide, laments that she is addicted to psychosomatic colds ("Adelaide's Lament"). The cause -- Nathan Detroit. She has been keeping company with him fourteen years. But since he is a chronic gambler, there is always some game of chance to come between them just as they are about to get married. At that very moment Nathan is involved in trying to find a place to house a floating crap game for some high players just come to town; and so, once again matrimony is farthest from his mind. His fellow gamblers, Nicely-Nicely and Benny, sympathize with him, for they have only contempt for anybody who allows himself to get deeply involved with a girl "Guys and Dolls").
Meanwhile, Sky Masterson is pursuing Sarah. Stimulated by a bet, he decides to invite her to Havana. Her better judgment not withstanding, Sarah goes off with Sky. In Havana she comes face to face with the glaring truth that she has fallen in love with him ("If I Were a Bell"). For his part, Sky has also come to realize that his game has become deadly serious; that he, too, was knee-deep in love ("I've Never Been in Love Before").
But after they return to Broadway, Sarah discovers that not love, but a bet, had been Sky's motive in taking her to Havana. She refuses to have anything more to do with him. Her troubles are compounded with the news that the Mission is in danger of closing down because not enough people take advantage of its services. With Sky's help, the Mission is saved: with his wide circle of friends on and near Broadway he can see to it that the Mission is crowded. Sarah's romantic interest in him is thereby revived. Her love affair with Sky achieves a happy resolution in marriage; and so, at long last, does that of Nathan and Adelaide.
Romance, however, is incidental in Guys and Dolls to the colorful picture provided of New York life, to the insight into the strange impulses and unique motivations governing the lives of some of the city's more picturesque characters.
Guys and Dolls was one of the greatest successes that the Broadway theatre has known. It's run of 1,200 performances netted more than twelve million dollars. Samuel Goldwyn then purchased the motion-picture rights for a million dollars plus a percentage, and cast Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra and Jean Simmons in the leading roles.
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