Every film from Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" essays.
On the Waterfront
The Man Lived by the Jungle Law of the Docks!
Terry Malloy dreams about being a prize fighter, while tending his pigeons and running errands at the docks for Johnny Friendly, the corrupt boss of the dockers union. Terry witnesses a murder by two of Johnny's thugs, and later meets the dead man's sister and feels responsible for his death. She introduces him to Father Barry, who tries to force him to provide information for the courts that will smash the dock racketeers.
One of the great American Classics that somehow managed to elude me all this time.
I now fully understand what people mean when they say that acting has a pre-Brando and a post-Brando era. Brando delivers a seminal performance here that shook things up mainly because he showed a natural quality to his acting that wasn't common in those days. He wasn't articulate, was very physical and clearly improvised a lot.
As an adept of the Actors Studio he was a practitioner of Method Acting and if ever there was a definitive example of what that can do to a performance, it is shown in Brando's portrayal of Terry Malloy. In a story…
**Part of the Best Picture Project**
On the Waterfront is a masterpiece. That much anyone can be sure of as it concludes. But just why is it a masterpiece?
As I talked about in my review of Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire, that film dealt with the conflict between the old Hollywood romanticism and the incoming age of realism, where stories weren't overplayed, merely depicted. In many ways, On the Waterfront is a spiritual successor to that film, arriving after that conflict is over.
Seeing On the Waterfront in historical relevance with the other Best Picture nominees only seems to make it stand out more. Here, Italian Neo-Realism arrives to Hollywood. On the Waterfront may have aspects of it that…
Can one simultaneously love and detest a work of art?
I was surrounded by both of these feelings when watching Elia Kazan's 1954 film On the Waterfront. It often is put on lists of top films of all time, and I do think it is fantastically done, but the message of this movie deeply troubled me.
To expand on this, let me explain the history of this film a bit. Elia Kazan was at one time close friends with the playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman et al) in the late forties. They often came to each other for advice and even collaborated on occasion.
Cut to the early 1950s in America. The Red Scare was in full swing…
"You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley."
There is so much I want to say about Elia Kazan 'On The Waterfront', so I gonna break it down in segments..
If anyone had any doubt of Marlon Brando acting at any point, just watch his interpretation of Terry Malloy, using the Stanislavski's system of acting, you will see there is Brando and then, there is the rest.
Eva Marie Saint, on her screen debut was…
Well, some people just got faces that stick in your mind.
You got that right, Brando.
You and your sad eyes. Your perpetually downturned mouth. Your straight eyebrows. Your chiseled features. That vein that pulsates on your forehead sometimes when you aren't even talking. That bravado in your voice. That fire in your belly.
You are too damn cool.
Young Brando had a way of bringing out a certain kind of physical energy in his early films that breathed an enigmatic life into stories that would normally be traditional movie going fare. Brando here is Terry Malloy, a prizefighter turned dock worker who begins to have a moral crisis when it comes to how he must handle his corrupt union…
On The Waterfront is brilliant on every level of film making that you care to mention. OMG is it good.
And 'THAT' scene, the one everyone's read about 'I could have been a contender', I didn't see it coming and when I finally realised I got goosebumps and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
'It wasn't him, Charley! It was you.' I loved the scene and off the top of my head I would put it right up there with 'The Watch' scene from Pulp Fiction, 'The Sicilian' scene from True Romance and the scene from 'The Public Enemy', the one where James Cagney smashes a grapefruit into Mae Clarke's face (not that I'm condoning violence…
Holy nips Marlon Brando is amazing. Young Marlon is so enjoyable to watch. So real. They story has ties beginning with 1800s industrialization, union movements and modern day. It is a common theme of choosing money over people. It is a tough choice to make especially when the majority chooses money. I appreciated the fact that On the Waterfront showed this struggle. It is a real uphill battle trying to change a whole community who doesn't seem to want your help. The addition of the priest I also enjoyed because the Church is means to be involved in people's lives. Not "hinding in the church" as Johnny's sister says.
Yes, this movie is beautifully shot, well-acted and paced.
"Why does it have only 3.5 stars, then?"
Because it drags, and no, Brando isn't a genius for dropping a glove.
On the Waterfront is the most thoughtful, riveting drama i have seen in years, with Marlon Brando giving one of the best performances i have ever seen.
"It's a question of who rides who."
A shifty jazz-accented classic about corruption among Hoboken longshoremen, and the sleazy Mob posturing of their corrupt union. It's far, far more than a silly, "Coulda been a contender," rape-excusing '50s production. It's authentically gritty, steamy, smudgey, a masterwork. The script is crisp, and the production is spectacular and awesome.
After 1931's AUTUMN FIRE (perfectly beautiful, but poetry more than narrative) and 1945's DETOUR (a shockingly good Poverty Row noir, but distracted by some potholes in the script), 1954 shows probably the earliest, and most flawless, live action American film I've yet seen. ON THE WATERFRONT is a crazy-good, rough-and-tumble gem. It's a precursor by 36 years to GOODFELLAS, but feels just as smart and candid as if (with just…
This film's status as a masterpiece is unquestionable. With towering performances and a perfectly paced plot, this film grabs you from the get go and never lets go. This was the first time I have ever seen Marlon Brando is a movie and not thought, "What an asshole!" I actually envied him and saw why the man was the superstar that he was. Director Elia Kazan manages to pull such nuanced and realistic performances out of his actors, it's almost like you're not watching a movie at all. Never once do you feel like a character is "showing" you what they're feeling; you just get it because they act how you would if you were in the same situation. A must-see for anyone who enjoys classics.
Masterful. The birth of the modern crime film. Long overdue watch.
"Some people just have a face that sticks in your mind."
I'm usually let down with a lot of these older, critically acclaimed movies. Fortunately, this is not true of On The Waterfront. I actually had the chance to check this out during a classics series at the theater.
On The Waterfront presents a well told and well acted story that continually got me more and more engaged as the movie went on. Marlon Brando and Lee Cobb are both very solid in their respective roles and this movie does a nice job to build its characters and relationships. Don't want to say too much about the plot other than to say that, while it's not some extraordinarily groundbreaking screenplay, it's the overall execution on all fronts (including music) that made this an above average experience for me. Worthy of a watch in my opinion.
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most recent update - Thursday, March 6, 2014, 11:42 PM EST
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