On the Waterfront (1954)
When Marlon Brando was just a young and upcoming actor in Hollywood, introducing a new kind of acting that brought the emotion to the screen like never before. Along comes a film that cements his name in film history On the Waterfront (1954).
A harbour town that has for a long time been sinking under the corruption that consumes it. Hard-working honest men trying to make enough money to get by and support their families have been broken into submission and silence at the acts of violence that now run the town, by union bosses more bothered about themselves than the men who make the money for them, loading the ships and working themselves to death.
All this comes to ahead when another murder is committed by the union gang when, the community are growing tired of the violence and poverty. But they won’t speak out and put those guilty behind bars. Not even Terry Malloy (Brando) who was involved in the murder, unaware of what would really happen. He is consumed with conflicting emotions. He doesn’t want to give evidence and put his union gang friends in the line of fire, to face jail time. The consequences would be worse than he fears. Whilst he also hates the life he has, a one time prize-fighter in the boxing ring, who missed opportunities to make it big and become successful. The sister Edie Doyle (Eve Marie Saint) of Joey Doyle, wants justice for her brother’s death, defying her fathers wishes to leave for a safer place, fights the injustice that has seen her brother killed. There is a guilt in Malloy that sees him look after Joey’s pigeons, the only thing that’s really left if him.
While he struggles with his own conscience, Father Barry (Karl Malden) fights with the beaten consciences of the working community who won’t up to the union that has squashed them into becoming cowards. The words of a man of he cloth are hard to swallow at first. It takes the brave move of one man to stand up and talk to the police for things to happen, and not without sacrifice. The words of god however strengthen the community, and even Malloy as he still struggles after being requested to give evidence at the trial.
The union led by hard man Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) put the pressure on their one time golden boy, who could do know wrong, climbing the ladders of the union. Yet never really wanted to be a part of it all, just falling in with the wrong crowd who made he feel grateful for all the time they spent with him, adopting him into their extended family who tough guys who operated the harbour.
There are some incredible stand-out performances by all involved, giving it their all in this classic film as the little man stands up to the corruption that once had a strangle old over them. To rise above the clouds to hopefully be better or what you once more, to regain your self-respect and be counted.
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