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Basset-eyed Marty Piletti is a Bronx, NY butcher who's settling in for a lonely life. He's more single than Bridget Jones, and more of a sweetie-pie than Samwise Gamgee.
But his friends, his mother, Teresa, and even the customers at the butcher shop, can't stop asking when he's going to get hitched. After work, Marty meets up with his best pal Angie (short for Angelo). These thirtyish boys-from-the-block can't decide what to do… just like on every other Saturday night.
Meanwhile, his mother's sister, Catherine, and her daughter-in-law, Virginia, are fighting like cats and dogs (or more like prizefighters). The daughter-in-law says that a young couple with a little baby should be able to have their own space to breathe… and the mama feels kicked to the curb. Her Tommy (Marty's first cousin) is smack in the middle between the two women in his life.
So Cousin Tommy asks Aunt Teresa (Marty's mom) if his mom can move in with her and Marty. She says "of course" and that she'll come over later to break the news to her sister. But she also asks Tommy if he has any ideas where Marty will be able to meet a girl—Marty getting a girl is #1 in her mind at all times. Tommy mentions the Stardust Ballroom, the dance hall where he met Virginia.
Later, when Marty comes home, his ma tells him about his Aunt Catherine moving in, and how he should go to the Stardust Ballroom. Marty's fine with the former but angry about the latter; it's totally depressing to be single, and he's sure he's a hopeless cause.
But he's also a good son and agrees to go, even though he knows it won't be any different than any other Saturday night—rejection city. Later that night, Angie and Marty arrive at the dance hall and stand awkwardly while gal after gal turn down their offers to dance with them.
Meanwhile, a modest, angel-faced young woman arrives with her couple friends and her blind date for the evening. The date is a total jerk, unhappy with the fact that this young woman isn't a glamazon. He spots another girl he knows from somewhere and plans to leaves his date.
Finally, while Angie at last gets a taker to dance, Marty stands by the wall and is approached by the blind date Don Juan, who explains that he'll pay him to take the dud off his hands. Marty exclaims that you can't just leave a lady like that, but the guy doesn't care, and moves on to find someone else.
This modest girl realizes what her jerkasaur date is up to, and decides that she's fine with being single for the night. But soon Marty approaches her to dance. They dance, talking and connecting immediately. "Maybe we're not such dogs as we think we are," Marty tells his dance partner. We find out that her name is Clara and she's a science teacher who lives with her parents. The two begin to fall a little bit in love. (Aww.)
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Marty's ma is breaking the news to her sister that her son would like her to move out. Catherine is bitter and dark about her future, and talks about how she's waiting to die. It's not good getting old. Catherine cries, and begins to pack. She'll move to Teresa and Marty's house the next day, before they leave church.
Marty and Clara are hitting it off so well that they decide to go get a cup of coffee and talk. Marty, exhilarated by spending time with this young, sweet teacher, can't seem to stop talking, telling her about his past—he was going to go to college, but then his father died, and he had to get a job taking care of the family. After that, he joined up and fought in WWII, but came back directionless and depressed and thought about killing himself. But in the end, he found the butcher shop job, and now his boss is leaving for California and wants to sell him the shop.
When Marty finally stops talking, Clara tells him he should buy it if he wants to, that she can tell he's a wonderful man. She tells him about her own opportunity: a department headship out of the city that would mean moving to entirely new place, where she wouldn't know anyone at all. Marty tells her she should do it, that she could call him anytime she got lonely. He convinces her to swing by his house so he can get some cash and really take her out.
Marty's ma Teresa is still out when the couple arrives to the house; Marty shows her around. They continue talking, and Marty tries to kiss her, but she resists. He feels angry and rejected all over again, but Clara explains that she really likes him, but that she just wasn't quite ready. They embrace and kiss briefly, just as Marty's ma arrives home.
Teresa is surprised to find Marty at home alone with a woman, but plays host, offering her food and drink, even though Marty was just about to take Clara home on the bus. They end up talking about how Marty's aunt is moving in with them. Clara—who's modern-thinking compared to the older woman—talks about how parents shouldn't expect to live with their adult children, and how women shouldn't rely on family for their sole satisfaction. Teresa looks surprised and hurt, but doesn't say anything, telling Clara it was nice to meet her as the couple leaves.
As Clara and Marty wait for the bus, Angie hollers at his friend from across the street, and then crosses to meet him. He's rude to Clara, hardly looking at her, and clearly angry at Marty for leaving him at the dance hall without saying goodbye. Angie tries to get Marty to leave Clara and go back out, but Marty says it's too late, and he's busy. Angie leaves, miffed, and Marty and Clara board the bus.
Outside Clara's apartment building, they say goodbye, and Marty plans to give her a call after she gets back from church. Both depart, breathlessly happy with the connection they've made with each other. Marty even high-fives a traffic sign in excitement, and then calls a cab home.
The next day, Virginia and Tommy fight as it comes time for Catherine to move out. Apparently the old woman has been up crying all night, and Tommy feels guilty, blaming his wife for his mother's pain. They drive Catherine over to Teresa and Marty's, where they continue to fight as Catherine tries to get settled in.
Teresa tells her sister/new roomie about the girl Marty had over the night before: a teacher with repugnantly modern ideas. Catherine proclaims working girls to be "one step from the street" and tells her sister that pretty soon, she herself will lose everything she once had of her home and family.
As if on cue, Marty comes in talking about how they don't need to live in this huge house anymore, that could live in a smaller apartment in a better neighborhood. The elderly sisters shake their head, and Marty and Teresa leave for church.
On the way to services, Marty tries to ask Tommy what he thinks about Marty buying the butcher shop. Why would you take on all that debt and responsibility? an embittered Tommy asks his cousin. Stay free! Later, on the steps of the church, Teresa tells Marty that maybe he shouldn't see Clara, that she's not a family kind of girl, that she's not Italian. Okay, Marty says, feeling a little beat up.
After church, Marty is hanging out with Angie and some friends at home, in the parlor, while his mom and aunt are outside. Yet again, no one can figure out anything to do. They're gossiping, talking sports, pin-up starlets, and detective stories. Marty is pacing, thinking of Clara, feeling miserable that he hasn't called her like he said he would. He makes up with Angie, even though Angie says that Clara is an old-looking dog whom Marty shouldn't be messing around with.
It's dark out when Marty goes out to the porch and his mother asks him what he's up to that evening. He's going to meet up with the boys, he says, smoking bitterly. (For her own part, Clara is at home, watching television with her parents and crying silently.)
A little later, Marty is lost in though outside the bar while his dude friends talk about hitting the dance hall, the movies, the burlesque: Marty is maddened by the repetition. These boys are all talk, and nothing ever changes!
In a moment of resolve, he runs into the bar's phone booth to call Clara: It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, he's in love. When Clara answers on the other end, Marty's smiling.
It's a happy ending.