Barnes & Noble - Monica McIntyreA gritty melodrama brimming with brilliant performances and seething with anger and desperation, On the Waterfront made a big splash in 1954, three years after its director Elia Kazan and star Marlon Brando had teamed up to film Tennessee Williams' A Street Car Named Desire. The story focuses on the collision between a corrupt union controlling the New Jersey port and one of its rank-and-file members, a boxer turned stevedore, Terry Malloy (Brando). The film solidified Brando's status as the king of American method acting. His famous "I coulda been a contender" monologue, spoken in the back of a taxi where his character confronts his older brother Charlie (Rod Steiger), is practically revered as a sacred text. The essence of cool, Brando's incomparably masculine style combined a sexy, knowing swagger with wry humor, jazzy timing and an aching vulnerability. The film boasts several other outstanding performances, including Karl Malden's outspoken priest and Lee J. Cobb's nasty union boss, while Leonard Bernstein's magisterial music contributes richly to the film's over-the-top naturalism. Bernstein's work earned an Academy Award nomination, one of 12 for the picture, which cleaned up on Oscar night with eight wins.
All Movie GuideNobody in Hollywood except director Elia Kazan wanted to make On the Waterfront and they're still fighting about it over a half-century later. When Kazan first started pitching Budd Schulberg's story about life and death on the New Jersey docks, even 20th Century Fox -- which had allowed him to make fiercely realistic and gritty movies dealing with anti-semitism (Gentleman's Agreement), the threat of a bubonic plague epidemic in New Orleans (Panic In The Streets), and the life of a Mexican revolutionary (Viva Zapata) -- wouldn't go near the story about union corruption. Every studio was fearful of what Hollywood and allied unions might do if word got around that someone was making a movie on that subject. Kazan, however, was lucky enough to find producer Sam Spiegel, who had a contract to make films for Columbia independent of Harry Cohn's veto. Between the two of them and Schulberg, and with Marlon Brando in a role previously earmarked for Frank Sinatra, they came up with a movie that confronted audiences with the brutality and corruption that permeated much of the labor movement in the United States and the fact that people in very high places benefitted from that corruption. More than that, or the savagery of the action, On the Waterfront became a source of unending vexation in Hollywood's political wars. Kazan had been branded an informer for "naming names" of suspected Communists and Communist sympathizers before the House Un-American Activities Committee, and On the Waterfront, with its story of a corrupt union stooge who informs on his former organization, was taken as Kazan's defense of his actions. It became the only cinematically respected anti-Communist film ever to come out of Hollywood. It wasn't perfect by any means -- the ending is too neat and unbelievable -- but it stood as a landmark of realistic, topical filmmaking, carrying a load of personal and ideological messages that are still being fought over a half-century later, as witnessed by the controversy surrounding the presenting of an Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement to Kazan in 1998. Bruce Eder
All Movie Guide - Bruce EderArguably the best movie ever released by Columbia Pictures and among the finest movies ever made in America, On the Waterfront's reputation has only grown across the half-century since its release. Based on a series of articles about corruption on the New York/New Jersey docks, with a story and screenplay by Budd Schulberg (who also wrote a novel, Waterfront, to tell the story without the compromises necessary for the screenplay), the movie -- directed by Elia Kazan -- retains the feel of truth from the first frame to the last, down to the smallest nuances of the supporting players. Longshoreman Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) is a washed-up ex-boxer who is a part-time stooge for corrupt union president Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), who also employs Terry's older, college educated brother Charley (Rod Steiger). As a favor to Johnny, Terry lures a fellow dockworker, Joey Doyle, to the roof of his building -- and Joey is thrown off the roof. All of the men who knew him plead "D & D" (deaf-and-dumb) about who killed him or why, but they all know that Joey was going to answer questions before the Waterfront Crime Commission investigating racketeering on the docks, and that it was Johnny Friendly who had him killed. But Terry can't walk away from Joey's death that easily -- he genuinely thought they were just going to lean on him a little, not kill him, and he can't forget that he set Joey up. Terry's conscience bothers him just enough so that when he meets Joey's grieving sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint), and sees Father Barry (Karl Malden), the local priest, trying to find out who killed Joey, they stir some long-buried streak of decency in him. At the same time, although he's not the brightest bead on the rosary (and this is a very Catholic movie, in its imagery and sensibilities), Terry slowly becomes aware that he can tie Johnny Friendly directly to the killing. Johnny starts to doubt Terry and his willingness to keep quiet; Terry and Edie are seen together too often, and they are falling in love with each other, albeit very reluctantly -- even Terry's brother Charley can't reach him anymore. When another longshoreman, Kayo Dugan (Pat Henning), agrees to testify and is murdered, Terry is the next in line for the investigators (Leif Erickson, Martin Balsam). Terry turns out not only to have a conscience but some dignity and self-worth. In the renowned taxi-ride scene with his brother (considered possibly the best dramatic scene between two actors in the whole history of movies), he recounts how Charley never looked out for him when Charley and Johnny handled him as a boxer and made him throw his most important fights -- he's not dead, but he's barely a shadow of who and what he might've been. By this time, the middle ground Terry is standing on is shrinking down to a point -- with a piercing edge -- and he (who is worrying only about himself) has to decide which way he's going to jump off. When Charley is murdered, he makes his decision, precipitating an explosion of pent-up fury on the docks that threatens to destroy both Terry and Johnny. The acting in On the Waterfront has the aura of truth, and the decision to shoot on location in northern New Jersey gave the film the immediacy and realism of a documentary. Into that mix goes Leonard Bernstein's music (his only film score), which anticipates elements of West Side Story and, in its editing and mixing into the audio track, imparts a very subtle operatic quality to the otherwise hyper-realistic film. Just check out the interaction of the visuals and the music in the scene depicting the fight at the morning shape-up, especially the build up to the horn flourish at the moment when Terry's friend points out that he's fighting with Joey Doyle's sister. The film is an extraordinary mix of elements both coarse and refined -- harsh realism and art at its most quietly elegant -- in a coherent and compelling whole that still holds up a half century later. On the Waterfront won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Brando, Best Supporting Actress for Saint, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Editing.
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- [B&W, Wide Screen]
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Cast & Crew
|Marlon Brando||Terry Malloy|
|Karl Malden||Father Barry|
|Lee J. Cobb||Johnny Friendly|
|Rod Steiger||Charley Malloy|
|Pat Henning||"Kayo" Dugan|
|Eva Marie Saint||Edie Doyle|
|James Westerfield||Big Mac|
|John Hamilton||"Pop" Doyle|
|Anne Hegira||Mrs. Collins|
|Rebecca Sands||Police Stenographer|
|Nehemiah Persoff||Cab Driver|
|Leonard Bernstein||Score Composer|
|Richard Day||Art Director|
|Anna Hill Johnstone||Costumes/Costume Designer|
|George Justin||Production Manager|
|Charles H. Maguire||Asst. Director|
|Fred C. Ryle||Makeup|
|James Shields||Sound/Sound Designer|
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On the Waterfront based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
There is not a false note in this movie. If you see it more than once, you will be moved to tears by the authentic portrayal by Brando at his absolute best. It is a must see for those who know only the Brando of today. Every review uses the word 'realism' and yet there is not one vulgar word used...and the picture doesn't suffer. the music stands by itself and every cast member is perfect. The scene in the cab is most mentioned but Brando and Eva Marie Saint in the bar and several others are priceless.
This is the film that won the oscar for Best Picture in 1954. Marlon Brando plays a towering performance as Terry Malloy. Also starring Lee J. Cobb (Johnny Friendly), Karl Malden (Father Barry), and Eva Marie Saint (Edie Doyle). The movie was directed by Elia Kazan. This is truly one of the greatest motion pictures of all time. See it from the start or do not see it at all. The Length of the picture is 1 Hr. 48 Mins.
Being raised and living close to the waterfront in Baltimore City this movie is about ar close a syou can get with out wearing cement boots. Brando,Steiger and Cobb and Saint are all Outstanding. My favoriate line from the movie was when Brando to the hiring slob,"Your not to funny today Fat Man". He also told the waterfront agent when he asked,"didn't I see you fight in the Garden"...Brano replyed,"Without the Birdseed what do you want". This is one of my all time Best...there will never be another Brando! "Enjoy" Joe Kopeck
THIS MY ALL-TIME FAVORTIE FILM AND IT IS A VERY SPECIAL FILM CLOSE TO MY HEART. I ADORE THE POWERFUL ACTING, AS WELL AS THE BRILLANT CHARACTERS. MANLY, LEONARD BERSTEIN'S SCORE IS EXCELLENT. MY FAVORITE SCENE IN THIS MASTERPIECE IS MARLON BRANDO'S FAMOUS ''I COUDLN'T BEEN A CONTENDER.'' THAT'S MARLON AT HIS USUAL BEST, YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GET THAT ANYWHERE ELSE. I TOTALLY RECOMMEND IT.
When On The Waterfront was released in 1954, I saw it 4 times in theathers. Since then I have seen it 20-30 times. The acting is outstanding by every one in the film. Story was true to life in the time of the piers being controlled by thugs and hoodlums. On scene filming locations added to it's longevity as a ''Classic''.
ON THE WATERFRONT is about the evil caused by a corrupt dock union and one man's courageous struggle against a brutal union boss (Lee J. Cobb) and his goons. Of course the hero (Marlon Brando) does not stand entirely alone as he receives a lot of support from his girl friend (Eva Marie Saint) and a Catholic priest (Karl Malden) in particular. The climactic scene near the end of the movie is unmatched in terms of impact and emotion. The film dominated the Oscar competition in 1954 gasrnering awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Director (Elia Kazan) and Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint). Nominations were also given for Best Supporting Actor (Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Karl Malden). Brando's performance in the role of Terry Malloy is one of his very best. It is hard to find an example of better acting than his impersonation of the speech, movement and idiosyncracies of a prize fighter. Brando's effort adds much to the authentic atmosphere which pervades the movie. The casting of ex-fighters Tami Mauriello and Tony Galento as union muscle only magnifies this effect. Mauriello and Galento share the distinction of both being knockout victims of Joe Louis.
the classic scene with terry malloy and his brother charlie withstood decades of butchering by impersonaters and remains one of the most recognized scenes in film history.
This film is so awesome, words can't describe it. Brando is at his best here in one of the greatest screen performances ever. This film is also great itself. Very great indeed. Buy it, now.
Great performances, great script, great score, great location filming. One of the best films ever made and still powerful and timely.
A great movie, Marlon Brando is wonderful!