On the Waterfront neatly captures its historical and political context of mob corruption on the New Jersey waterfront, its screenplay is tight and lucid, and of course Marlon Brando's performance is truly electric (comparing favourably, in my view, with his highly over-rated contemporary James Dean - Brando can only have missed out on equivalent icon status by not having the foresight to plough his car into the back of a truck). The deftness of touch with which Brando has his knuckle-headed ex-boxer seeing the light and turning to a working class hero is truly outstanding. As is the sublety with which the film treats this unlikely hero theme: cinematic history is replete with ham fisted, corny variations of this theme: On the Waterfront is never even slightly suspect in that regard.
Also well worth a mention is Karl Malden, latterly of the Street of San Francisco, who infused what might have been a particularly corny part with gravitas. Terrific film.
Ask anyone what pops into their head when you mention ON THE WATERFRONT. Chances are it's the classic line "I coulda been a contender", delivered by Marlon Brando is one of his finest performances. Brando plays tough guy Terry Malloy, a boxer-turned-longshoreman working for a group of corrupt union bosses. He's content working on the docks day in and day out, never putting any thought into his life. Then he meets Edie Doyle (played by Eva Marie Saint), a young girl trying to find the person(s) responsible … more
Most of the various lists of all-time greatest films include this one because it offers a rare combination of superior talent in all areas of production: directed by Elia Kazan...edited by Gene Milford...starring Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden, and Lee J. Cobb...art direction by Richard Day...a screenplay written by Budd Schulberg based on Malcolm Johnson's novel...musical score composed by Leonard Bernstein...with cinematography provided by Boris Kaufman. Producer San Spiegel accepted … more
Marlon Brando's famous "I coulda been a contenda" speech is such a warhorse by now that a lot of people probably feel they've seen this picture already, even if they haven't. And many of those who have seen it may have forgotten how flat-out thrilling it is. For all its great dramatic and cinematic qualities, and its fiery social criticism, Elia Kazan'sOn the Waterfrontis also one of the most gripping melodramas of political corruption and individual heroism ever made in the United States, a five-star gut-grabber. Shot on location around the docks of Hoboken, New Jersey, in the mid-1950s, it tells the fact-based story of a longshoreman (Brando's Terry Malloy) who is blackballed and savagely beaten for informing against the mobsters who have taken over his union and sold it out to the bosses. (Karl Malden has a more conventional stalwart-hero role, as an idealistic priest who nurtures Terry's pangs of conscience.) Lee J. Cobb, who created the role of Willy Loman inDeath of Salesmanunder Kazan's direction on Broadway, makes a formidable foe as a greedy union leader.--David Chute