On the Waterfront (1954)

I’ve finally gotten around to watching On the Waterfront, it is widely considered one of the best films of all time, won eight Oscars including Best Picture, Director, screenplay and Actor. The film is sort of based on as the title cards says “Suggested by” Malcolm Johnson’s series of articles in the New York Sun about “Crime on the Waterfront” in New York City, I believe this is the only newspaper article that has become a Best Picture winner. Spoilers to follow for a sixty-year old film.

The film is about the Longshoremen under the control of a mob-connected union boss Friendly (Lee J Cobb) who although connected to numerous murders the police and the Waterfront Commission, they have not proof that Friendly is connected as witnesses act”D(eaf) and D(umb)” and won’t rat of Friendly for fear that they might get killed. The film opens with a scene as Friendly uses Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) to get Joey Doyle to go up to the roof where Joey is ambushed and thrown off the roof. The next day at the dock before the day begins Edie Doyle (Ava Marie Saint, in her first feature film) confronts the neighborhood priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) about how he has done nothing to save the longshoremen. This prompts Fr. Barry to have a meeting with the dockworkers to talk about their union. After this meeting is interrupted by Friendly’s men Father Barry begins giving sermons on the dock in which he reminds the longshoremen that Christ walks amongst them and that any murder is a Calvary. Will the Longshoremen do anything or will it just be business as usual on the docks.

The film is a bit slow in places but all in all it works. On the Waterfront is one of those films that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. It’s on enough best films list that it seems like many others agree with this idea.

Oddly enough it still feels like a relevant piece today sure the we don’t hear much about the mob but Father Barry’s sermon ” …And every time the Mob puts the pressure on a good man, tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen, it’s a crucifixion. And anybody who sits around and lets it happen, keeps silent about something he knows that happened, shares the guilt of it just as much as the Roman soldier who pierced the flesh of our Lord to see if he was dead. ” It seems like we hear about a murder about once a day but many of us have just grown immune to hearing about another death and how nothing will get done about it. We need to take action and do something about all the violence in the United States. There’s an election coming up in November for the President if you haven’t heard about it we’ve got a pair of bad candidates to choose from Hillary Clinton and Donny TRUMP. We as citizens need to make this all important choice.


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