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#46- On the Waterfront

Quick recap: Terry Malloy, former boxer, is now a dockworker. In order to keep a steady stream of work, Malloy agrees to help the corrupt union, which also involves his brother Charley. He doesn’t mind it for the most part until he helps get a guy murdered and then he realizes that maybe this isn’t the direction his life should be headed. Around the same time, Malloy begins to see the sister of the murdered guy and also comes to the realization that being connected to the union that murdered the brother won’t win him any points with the girl. He attempts to stand up to the union but quickly realizes how dangerous this is because they control everything and also have guns.

Fun (?) Fact: The scene with Edie dropping her glove was for the most part, improvised. In the scene, Malloy picks up the glove and puts it on his hand, playing with it. He continues by talking to Edie about their childhood. The director loved it so much that it was kept in the movie.



My thoughts: When I watch movies on my list, I typically like to do so alone. This is because I don’t want someone else pushing me towards a conclusion that is not my own. So when my husband offered to watch ‘On the Waterfront’ with me,  I was hesitant, seeing as how this is one of his favorite films. It turns out there really wasn’t much to worry about because I too loved this movie from the very beginning.

Although the story is compelling, it is the acting from Marlon Brando that blew me away. It was as if the director went to the dock, plucked him out, gave him a script, and sent him to work. His portrayal of Terry Malloy is one of the best examples of acting in the history of film. He delivers his lines without any real effort as well as his reaction to other characters. It’s a tiny scene, but I love how Brando interacts with the investigators as his waits on his job at the dock. He attempts to blow them off and then gets angry when they don’t leave him alone. After they do finally leave, he goes back to his buddies and gives off this look like he is confused but deep down, knows what really happened. It’s a great example of Brando fully bringing the character of Malloy to life.

When mentioning this  film, most people know the taxi cab scene when Brando says, ‘I coulda been a contender’. It is indeed a powerful exchange, as Malloy realizes that his brother has betrayed him. My favorite scene, however, happens as Malloy discovers that his brother has been murdered by the union. The image of his brother hanging from a hook, gunshot wounds to the heart, is so chilling. Brando is so convincing in his role as Malloy grieves. It was so heartbreaking to watch, although not as sad as when Malloy finds that his pigeons have all been murdered. Animal death is sad enough for me, but seeing Malloy try to mask his pain was almost too much.

Besides the acting, I think I loved this movie because the story is so compelling. The idea of a corrupt union wasn’t a new one and in fact, this movie brought to light real organizations that were doing this same thing to their members. It’s always nice when a movie can expand beyond pure entertainment.

Final review: 5/5. This is a dark movie for its time, but one that I think should be required viewing for any movie fan.

Up Next: Rome Open City and after that it will be October and Horrorfest!

2 responses to “#46- On the Waterfront

  1. There are so many positive things about this movie, and I agree with all the ones you note. All the other actors are right up there with Brando too, especially Eva Marie Saint. This kind of production justifies “method” acting – using your own experiences to make the character’s emotions authentic. The only negative I could find after multiple viewings is that the score (Leonard Bernstein) is too busy. They have to keep turning it down in the mix to not interfere with dialogue. But this is one of director Elia Kazan’s best films, deservedly classic.

    Read up on how hard it was to shoot Open City, with stolen short ends of film stock, non-professional actors, on a starvation budget with no studio backing, just six months after Rome had been liberated. It mirrors the courage of the story being told.

    • mabelsfa

      Oh, yes, the score! It was very distracting at times and I especially disliked when it turned a perfectly good scene into melodrama nonsense. That was also about the only negative thing I could find.
      I just watched Open City tonight so I will be posting a review sometime in the next day. I always love when a movie’s background is sometimes more interesting than the actual movie!

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