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…
Seeing as I'm just getting into classics, my answer wouldn't be a hundred percent sure, but if anybody ever asked me "Which of the classics do you like the most?" the first ones that would pop into my head would be "Sunset Blvd.", "Psycho" and "On the Waterfront". The harder question would be "why?"
I think the main reason why I loved "On the Waterfront" is because this film wasn't really trying to show anything more than just daily lives of people that have to deal with the injustices of the world. And most importantly, how they deal with it.
And, well, Brando is the epitome of cool in this movie.
Goddamn Brando's speech to his brother in the car is probably some of the best, most natural-sounding dialogue I've ever heard in a film. Really great.
"Conscience. That stuff can drive you nuts."
So says Terry Malloy, the longshoreman who testifies against his union in “On the Waterfront.” The line, said by Marlon Brando, resonates all through the picture because the story is about conscience--and so is the story behind the story. This was the film made in 1954 by Elia Kazan after he agreed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, named former associates who were involved with the Communist Party and became a pariah in left-wing circles.
“On the Waterfront” was, among other things, Kazan's justification for his decision to testify. In the film, when a union boss shouts, “You ratted on us, Terry,” the Brando character shouts back: “I'm standing over here…
Brando makes this film really good
A distinctly American film.
This is truly a BRILLIANT film. I believe the key to any 'classic' is a great story behind the cinematic techniques, level of acting and direction- and 'On The Waterfront' encompasses all of the aforementioned facets.
The central romance between Brando and Saint's characters adds a touch of innocence and lightness to the darkness of the waterfront. Edie is sweet and good-natured, always trusting the people she loves. Edie brings out a softer, tender side to Terry that he has never known before. It is heartwarming to watch Edie and Terry fall in love, as Brando and Saint have very good chemistry so it is utterly believable.
Lots of classic scenes- most notably, the taxicab conversation between Steiger and Brando.…
What a truly unique movie. A boxing movie that never has a scene in the ring. A gangster movie without a drive by, and the mob boss doesn't kill off his greatest threat. An anti-hero that we can really like, despite his deeply cynical viewpoint on life. A priest that is truly a complex character. On the Waterfront defies genre and typical movie characterization and yet is deeply satisfying. It treads new ground in the time of the Hays code, and yet it wasn't-- couldn't be, really-- copied by a hundred other films. The closest we come to an imitation of this film is the second season of The Wire.
This is one hell of a film. It’s so powerful, so incredibly well made, so unbelievably well acted, and the story is so perfectly told. This film is a masterpiece. It’s the kind of film they don’t make anymore, everything so real and yet so cliche. It’s a film about struggle, about how long people will put up with corruption before they do something about it. It’s a film about hardship, and the choices we make, and how we live our lives. And, because of all of these things, it’s perfect.
The story is simple, as the best ones all seem to be. As the title says, it takes place on the waterfront. Specifically the New York City waterfront, where…
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most recent update - Thursday, April 10, 2014, 11:23 PM EST
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