On the Waterfront
Budd Schulberg's script is based on his own original which in turn was "suggested" by the Malcolm Johnson articles. It's a rousing scenario that Schulberg fashioned, with strong accent on murder and somewhat remindful of the picturized gangsterism of the 1920's.
Under Elia Kazan's direction, Marlon Brando delivers one of his strongest performances here as Terry Maloy, the flawed hero of this riveting drama. Maloy and his brother Charlie were "bought" at an early age by local mobster Johnny Friendly, who tempted them with easy money and cushy jobs. Charlie went to college and became one of Friendly's henchman, while Terry, more the physical type, trained to become a boxer. Yet his potential was wasted because of rigged fights and bets which forced him to lose. And now he's one of the many poor slobs who work as longshoremen on the waterfront, sweating like pigs for almost nothing. They have to be part of an Union, but corrupted as it ...view middle of the document...
Eva Marie Saint, a newcomer to films who has appeared in television and the legiter, "Trip to Bountiful." Edie Doyle, in sharp contrast with the robust people and settings of "Waterfront," is fresh and delicate but with enough spirit to escape listlessness in her characterization.The priest kind gives him a conscience or at least makes him realize he has one, while the girl is maybe the first to ever show him kindness.
Story opens with Brando setting the trap for the murder of a longshoreman who refuses to abide by the "deaf and dumb" code of the waterfront. The victim is hurled from a rooftop because he addressed himself to an investigating crime commission.
Lee J. Cobb is all-powerful as the one-man boss Johnny Friendly of the docks. He looks and plays the part harshly, arrogantly and with authority. Another fine job is executed by Karl Malden as the local Catholic priest who is outraged to the point that he spurs the revolt against Friendly's dictatorship.
Sam Spiegel's production was lensed on location in the Hoboken, N.J., area and, it appears, much of the camera turning was done in the blue-gray early morning.
"On the Waterfront" was directed by Elia Kazan, who had already worked with Brando on “ A Streetcar Named Desire.” Kazan received a lifetime achievement award at the 1999 Oscars, and controversy rose from the fact that he helped blacklist supposed communists in Hollywood during the McCarthy witch hunt. This movie is called by many to be near-perfect. It's tense and evocative, it's effectively paced and beautifully photographed, and it brings up important issues like why a majority of people can surrender to a minority of bad elements and stand silently while they're being screwed. And then there's the great cast with Karl Malden who is very intense and earnest as the priest, Eva Marie Saint brings strength to the part of the girl Maloy falls for, Rod Steiger is interestingly nuanced as Charlie and Lee J. Cob is appropriately menacing and sleazy as hoodlum Johnny Friendly. Of course, the film belongs to Marlon Bran. Right from the start, he literally becomes his character. His delivery, his body language, everything is jut right. Brando is always riveting, and you're really compelled to follow him through good times, bad times.