On the Waterfront


1h 48m 1954
On the Waterfront

Brief Synopsis

A young stevedore takes on the mobster who rules the docks.

Film Details

Also Known As
Bottom of the River, Crime on the Waterfront, Waterfront
Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 1954
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Jul 1954
Production Company
Horizon-American Pictures, Inc..
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Hoboken, New Jersey, USA; Hoboken, New Jersey, United States
Screenplay Information
Suggested by the articles "Crime on the Waterfront" by Malcolm Johnson in The New York Sun (Nov--Dec 1948).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 48m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

At the request of mob boss Johnny Friendly, longshoreman Terry Malloy, a former boxer, lures fellow dock worker Joey Doyle to the roof of his tenement building, purportedly to discuss their shared hobby of pigeon racing. Believing that Friendly only intends to frighten Joey out of his threat to speak to the New York State Crime Commission, Terry is stunned to see Joey topple from the building as he and his brother, Charley "the Gent," watch from across the street. As neighbors gather around Joey's body, his distraught sister Edie accuses parish priest Father Barry of hiding behind the church and not helping the neighborhood break free from the mob's grip. Listening nearby, Terry is disturbed by Edie's indictment and later joins Charley, Friendly's lawyer and accountant, at a meeting with Friendly and his lackeys. Friendly assures Terry that Joey's death was necessary to preserve his hold on the harbor, then directs dock manager Big Mac to place Terry in the top job slot the following day. The next morning, while waiting for the day's work assignment, the dock workers offer their sympathy to Joey's father Pop, who gives Joey's jacket to Kayo Dugan. Terry is approached by Crime Commission representative Eddy Glover, but refuses to discuss Joey. Edie comes down to the docks to apologize to Father Barry, but he admits that her accusation has prompted him to become more involved in the lives of the longshoremen. Father Barry asks some of the men to meet downstairs in the church, despite being advised that Friendly does not approve of union meetings. Later, in the warehouse, Charley asks Terry to sit in on the church meeting. When Terry hesitates, Charley dismisses his brother's fears of "stooling." Despite the sparse turnout, Father Barry adamantly declares that mob control of the docks must end and demands to know about Joey's murder. Several men bristle in anger upon seeing Terry at the meeting, and Kayo tells Father Barry that no one will talk out of fear that Friendly will find out. Father Barry insists the men can fight Friendly and the mob through the courts, but the men refuse to participate. Friendly's stooges break up the meeting by hurling stones through the church windows. After Pop and Kayo are attacked outside, Father Barry presses Kayo to take action and Kayo agrees. Terry insists on walking Edie home and, on the way, she hesitatingly tells him abut her convent upbringing and ambition to teach. At home, Pop scolds Edie for walking with Terry, whom he calls a bum, and demands that she return to college. Edie responds that she must stay to find out who killed Joey. Later that day Edie is surprised to find Terry on the roof with Joey's pigeons. Terry shows her his own prize bird, then asks her if she would like to have a beer with him. At the bar, Terry tells Edie that he and Charley were placed in an orphanage after their father died, but they eventually ran away. He took up boxing and Friendly bought a percentage of him, but his career faded. Swept up among wedding party revelers, Edie and Terry dance together until they are interrupted by Glover, who serves Terry with a subpoena to the Crime Commission hearings. Edie demands to know if Friendly arranged Joey's murder, and when Terry cautions her to stop asking questions, she accuses him of still being owned by the mobster. That evening, Friendly visits Terry, who is evasive about the church meeting, then surprised when Friendly reveals that Kayo testified before the commission. Charley criticizes Terry for seeing Edie, and Friendly orders Terry back to working in the ship hold. The next day in the hold, Terry attempts to speak with Kayo, but the older man brushes him aside, calling him one of Friendly's boys. Big Mac and one of his henchmen rig a crane to slip, and a load of boxes crashes down upon Kayo, killing him in front of Terry. Outraged, Father Barry gives an impromptu eulogy for Kayo, asserting that Kayo was killed to prevent him from testifying. After two of Friendly's henchmen begin pelting the priest with fruit and vegetables, Pop and Edie arrive and watch as Father Barry ignores the abuse and exhorts the men to believe in themselves and reject mob control. Terry furiously knocks out one of the henchmen, angering Friendly and Charley. Later, Father Barry returns Joey's jacket to Pop and Edie. That night, after Edie gives Joey's jacket to Terry, the guilt-stricken Terry tries but is unable to tell her about his part in Joey's murder. The next morning Terry seeks out Father Barry to ask for guidance as he believes he is falling in love with Edie, but is conflicted about testifying and about going against Charley. Father Barry maintains that Terry must follow his conscience and challenges him to be honest with Edie. When Terry meets Edie on the beach later, he relates the details of the night of Joey's murder, insisting that he did not know Joey would be killed, but Edie rushes away in distress. Later while tending his pigeons on the roof, Terry is visited by Glover and implies that he might be willing to testify. Their meeting is reported to Friendly, who orders Charley to straighten Terry out. That night, Charley takes Terry on a cab drive and chides him for not telling him about the subpoena. When Terry attempts to explain his confusion, Charley brusquely threatens him with a gun. Hurt, Terry reproaches his older brother for not looking after him and allowing him to become a failure and a bum by involving him with the mob. Charley gives Terry the gun and says he will stall Friendly. Terry goes to see Edie, and breaks down her apartment door when she refuses to let him in and demands to know if she cares for him. Edie tells Terry to listen to his conscience, which angers him, but the two embrace. When Terry is summoned to the street, Edie begs him not to go, then follows him. After the couple is nearly run down by a truck, they find Charley's body hung up on a meat hook on a nearby fence. Taking down his brother's body, Terry vows revenge on Friendly, and sends Edie for Father Barry. Armed, Terry hunts for Friendly at his regular bar, but Father Barry convinces him that the best way to ruin Friendly is in court and Terry throws away the gun. The next day at the hearings, Terry testifies to Friendly's involvement in Joey's death, outraging the mobster, who shouts threats at him. Back at home, Terry is scorned by the neighbors for testifying and discovers that his pigeons have been killed by a boy he once coached. Edie attempts to comfort Terry, advising him to leave, but Terry insists that he has the right to stay in his town. The next day Terry reports to work as usual, but is ignored by the men and refused work by Big Mac. In his office at the pier, Friendly, who is about to be indicted, swears vengeance on Terry. Terry confronts Friendly on the pier, declaring he is nothing without guns, and the two fall into a brutal fistfight. While Friendly's men help to thrash Terry, the dockworkers watch impassively as Edie arrives with Father Barry. Friendly orders the longshoremen to begin unloading, but the men refuse and demand that Terry be allowed to work, hoping the shipping owners will witness their refusal to obey Friendly and realize their intention to restart a clean union. Father Barry urges on the beaten Terry, who rises and defiantly stumbles down the pier and into the warehouse.

Photo Collections

On the Waterfront - Academy Archives
Here are archive images from On the Waterfront (1954), courtesy of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Videos

Movie Clip

On The Waterfront (1954) - You Grew Up Very Nice After a meeting broken up by thugs, ex-fighter and union enforcer Terry (Marlon Brando) with Edie (Eva Marie Saint), who doesn't know the role he played in the murder of her brother, the bit with the glove a famous ad-lib, shot on location in Hoboken, NJ, in Elia Kazan's On The Waterfront, 1954.
On The Waterfront (1954) - I Coulda Been Somebody! From the defining scene in Elia Kazan's landmark picture, crooked union lawyer Charley (Rod Steiger) with an offer and a threat to his ex-fighter longshoreman brother Terry (Marlon Brando), in On The Waterfront, 1954.
On The Waterfront (1954) - Your Uncle Johnny Something of a manifesto from union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), holding forth for ex-fighter Terry (Marlon Brando), his brother Charlie (Rod Steiger) and assorted thugs, early in Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront, 1954.
On The Waterfront (1954) - It's A Crucifixion Father Barry (Karl Malden) with a fiery sermon in the hold of a ship where a longshoreman has been killed by union thugs, Terry (Marlon Brando), Edie (Eva Marie Saint), the sister of an earlier victim, and boss Johnny (Lee J. Cobb) in the audience, from Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront, 1954.
On The Waterfront (1954) - Do it to Him! Terry (Marlon Brando), the ex-fighter who unwittingly set up the murder of her longshoreman brother, and distraught, Catholic-educated Edie (Eva Marie Saint) in their famous conversation in the saloon from Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront, 1954, from Budd Schulberg's screenplay.
On The Waterfront (1954) - You Take It From Here From Budd Schulberg’s script based on Malcolm Johnson’s articles, director Elia Kazan’s blinding opening, Lee J. Cobb the crooked union boss, Marlon Brando as longshoreman Terry, Rod Steiger his slick brother, then John Hamilton, Karl Malden and Eva Marie Saint, in On The Waterfront, 1954.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Promo

Film Details

Also Known As
Bottom of the River, Crime on the Waterfront, Waterfront
Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Classic Hollywood
Release Date
Oct 1954
Premiere Information
New York opening: 28 Jul 1954
Production Company
Horizon-American Pictures, Inc..
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Hoboken, New Jersey, USA; Hoboken, New Jersey, United States
Screenplay Information
Suggested by the articles "Crime on the Waterfront" by Malcolm Johnson in The New York Sun (Nov--Dec 1948).

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 48m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
11 reels

Award Wins

Best Actor

1954
Marlon Brando

Best Art Direction

1954

Best Cinematography

1954

Best Director

1954
Elia Kazan

Best Editing

1954
Gene Milford

Best Picture

1954

Best Supporting Actress

1954
Eva Marie Saint

Best Writing, Screenplay

1955

Award Nominations

Best Music, Original or Comedy Series

1955

Best Supporting Actor

1954
Lee J. Cobb

Best Supporting Actor

1954
Karl Malden

Best Supporting Actor

1954
Rod Steiger

Articles

The Essentials-On the Waterfront


SYNOPSIS

Ex-boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) earns an inconsequential living working for waterfront crime boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). But when he unwittingly lures a rebellious dockworker to his death, Malloy suffers pangs of guilt. Through the love of Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint), the murdered man's sister, and the support of Father Barry (Karl Malden), a crime-fighting priest, Terry finds the moral courage to stand up to Friendly and his goons and accept the violent consequences of his decision.

Producer: Sam Spiegel
Director: Elia Kazan
Screenplay: Budd Schulberg, from articles by Malcolm Johnson
Cinematography: Boris Kaufman
Art Direction: Richard Day
Editing: Gene Milford
Original Music: Leonard Bernstein
Principal Cast: Marlon Brando (Terry Malloy), Karl Malden (Father Barry), Lee J. Cobb (Johnny Friendly), Rod Steiger (Charley "The Gent" Malloy), Pat Henning (Timothy J. "Kayo" Dugan), Leif Erickson (Glover, Crime Commission), James Westerfield (Big Mac).
BW-108m.

Why ON THE WATERFRONT is Essential

"The finest thing ever done by an American film actor" was how director Elia Kazan has characterized the performance of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (1954), the classic tale of crime and corruption among unionized dock workers in New York and New Jersey. Brando plays Terry Malloy, a washed-up boxer turned longshoreman who witnesses a murder arranged by a union boss and agrees to testify before the Crime Commission.

Kazan, in developing the film from Malcolm Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning articles, originally asked playwright Arthur Miller to write the screenplay. When Miller refused, reportedly because of Kazan’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee that had implicated others as Communist sympathizers, Kazan turned to novelist/screenwriter Budd Schulberg, who also had "named names" for the Committee. Brando later wrote in his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, that On the Waterfront "was really a metaphorical argument" by Kazan and Schulberg: "They made the film to justify finking on their friends. Evidently, as Terry Malloy, I represented the spirit of the brave, courageous man who defied evil."

Frank Sinatra, who had been Kazan’s original choice to play Terry, sued producer Sam Spiegel for breach of contract after Brando was cast instead, and retained bitter feelings for Brando that surfaced when the two co-starred a year later in Guys and Dolls (1955) - with Brando once again in a role that Sinatra coveted. Kazan had considered Grace Kelly and Rosemary Clooney for the role eventually filled by Saint in her film debut. Rod Steiger, who played Terry’s weasel-like brother, shares Brando’s famous "I coulda been a contender" scene in the taxicab. Steiger also felt a certain bitterness toward Brando because the latter bolted from the set when his portion of that scene was completed, leaving Steiger to play his close-ups to a stand-in.

On the Waterfront won eight Oscars - for Best Picture, Director (Kazan), Actor (Brando), Supporting Actress (Saint), Screenplay (Schulberg), Black-and-White Cinematography, Art Direction/Set Decoration and Editing. No less than three of the film’s supporting actors -Cobb, Steiger and Karl Malden, as a priest - were nominated, but the Oscar in that category went to Edmond O’Brien for The Barefoot Contessa. Leonard Bernstein also was nominated for the film’s score, his first. Kazan’s testimony for the HUAC remained a controversial issue in 1998, when he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar.

by Roger Fristoe and Scott McGee
The Essentials-On The Waterfront

The Essentials-On the Waterfront

SYNOPSIS Ex-boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) earns an inconsequential living working for waterfront crime boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). But when he unwittingly lures a rebellious dockworker to his death, Malloy suffers pangs of guilt. Through the love of Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint), the murdered man's sister, and the support of Father Barry (Karl Malden), a crime-fighting priest, Terry finds the moral courage to stand up to Friendly and his goons and accept the violent consequences of his decision. Producer: Sam Spiegel Director: Elia Kazan Screenplay: Budd Schulberg, from articles by Malcolm Johnson Cinematography: Boris Kaufman Art Direction: Richard Day Editing: Gene Milford Original Music: Leonard Bernstein Principal Cast: Marlon Brando (Terry Malloy), Karl Malden (Father Barry), Lee J. Cobb (Johnny Friendly), Rod Steiger (Charley "The Gent" Malloy), Pat Henning (Timothy J. "Kayo" Dugan), Leif Erickson (Glover, Crime Commission), James Westerfield (Big Mac). BW-108m. Why ON THE WATERFRONT is Essential "The finest thing ever done by an American film actor" was how director Elia Kazan has characterized the performance of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (1954), the classic tale of crime and corruption among unionized dock workers in New York and New Jersey. Brando plays Terry Malloy, a washed-up boxer turned longshoreman who witnesses a murder arranged by a union boss and agrees to testify before the Crime Commission. Kazan, in developing the film from Malcolm Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning articles, originally asked playwright Arthur Miller to write the screenplay. When Miller refused, reportedly because of Kazan’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee that had implicated others as Communist sympathizers, Kazan turned to novelist/screenwriter Budd Schulberg, who also had "named names" for the Committee. Brando later wrote in his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, that On the Waterfront "was really a metaphorical argument" by Kazan and Schulberg: "They made the film to justify finking on their friends. Evidently, as Terry Malloy, I represented the spirit of the brave, courageous man who defied evil." Frank Sinatra, who had been Kazan’s original choice to play Terry, sued producer Sam Spiegel for breach of contract after Brando was cast instead, and retained bitter feelings for Brando that surfaced when the two co-starred a year later in Guys and Dolls (1955) - with Brando once again in a role that Sinatra coveted. Kazan had considered Grace Kelly and Rosemary Clooney for the role eventually filled by Saint in her film debut. Rod Steiger, who played Terry’s weasel-like brother, shares Brando’s famous "I coulda been a contender" scene in the taxicab. Steiger also felt a certain bitterness toward Brando because the latter bolted from the set when his portion of that scene was completed, leaving Steiger to play his close-ups to a stand-in. On the Waterfront won eight Oscars - for Best Picture, Director (Kazan), Actor (Brando), Supporting Actress (Saint), Screenplay (Schulberg), Black-and-White Cinematography, Art Direction/Set Decoration and Editing. No less than three of the film’s supporting actors -Cobb, Steiger and Karl Malden, as a priest - were nominated, but the Oscar in that category went to Edmond O’Brien for The Barefoot Contessa. Leonard Bernstein also was nominated for the film’s score, his first. Kazan’s testimony for the HUAC remained a controversial issue in 1998, when he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar. by Roger Fristoe and Scott McGee

Pop Culture 101-On the Waterfront


Arthur Miller wrote the play The Crucible as a thinly veiled rebuke to the House on Un-American Activities Committee, its witch hunt for Communist sympathizers, and the subsequent cooperation given by several of Hollywood's leading citizens to the hysteria, including Miller's former friend and colleague, Elia Kazan. To some degree, On the Waterfront was Kazan's response to this.

In his autobiography, director Elia Kazan claimed, "There were four reasons why On the Waterfront was such a success. Brando was one of them. If there is a better performance by a man in the history of films in America, I don't know what it is. Then there was Budd's devotion and tenacity and his talent. He never backed off. I was tough and good on the streets and persisted through all difficulties. But finally there was Sam. After the casting of the main part had been settled, the rewriting process began, and it was here, above all, that Sam showed his worth."

On the Waterfront would be the last film Marlon Brando would do with Elia Kazan, having previously worked together on A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Viva Zapata! (1952). However, Kazan also offered Brando roles in Baby Doll (1956), A Face in the Crowd (1957), and The Arrangement (1969).

The series of articles on which On the Waterfront is based won writer Malcolm Johnson a Pulitzer Prize.

Marlon Brando based much of his characterization of Terry Malloy on a New York street kid named Al Lettieri, who would eventually become a character actor in films. He later played Sollozzo, the rival gangster whom Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) assassinates in the pizzeria in The Godfather (1972), which also starred Brando. Lettieri also made a memorable impression as a sadistic thug in Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway (1972).

by Scott McGee

Pop Culture 101-On the Waterfront

Arthur Miller wrote the play The Crucible as a thinly veiled rebuke to the House on Un-American Activities Committee, its witch hunt for Communist sympathizers, and the subsequent cooperation given by several of Hollywood's leading citizens to the hysteria, including Miller's former friend and colleague, Elia Kazan. To some degree, On the Waterfront was Kazan's response to this. In his autobiography, director Elia Kazan claimed, "There were four reasons why On the Waterfront was such a success. Brando was one of them. If there is a better performance by a man in the history of films in America, I don't know what it is. Then there was Budd's devotion and tenacity and his talent. He never backed off. I was tough and good on the streets and persisted through all difficulties. But finally there was Sam. After the casting of the main part had been settled, the rewriting process began, and it was here, above all, that Sam showed his worth." On the Waterfront would be the last film Marlon Brando would do with Elia Kazan, having previously worked together on A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Viva Zapata! (1952). However, Kazan also offered Brando roles in Baby Doll (1956), A Face in the Crowd (1957), and The Arrangement (1969). The series of articles on which On the Waterfront is based won writer Malcolm Johnson a Pulitzer Prize. Marlon Brando based much of his characterization of Terry Malloy on a New York street kid named Al Lettieri, who would eventually become a character actor in films. He later played Sollozzo, the rival gangster whom Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) assassinates in the pizzeria in The Godfather (1972), which also starred Brando. Lettieri also made a memorable impression as a sadistic thug in Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway (1972). by Scott McGee

The Big Idea-On the Waterfront


Budd Schulberg based his screenplay on a series of articles that appeared in the New York Sun. Schulberg took a rather unorthodox approach to the material, "applying not a month or two, but years of my life to absorbing everything I could about the New York waterfront, becoming an habitu¿of the West Side Manhattan and Jersey bars, interviewing longshore union leaders and getting to know the fearless and outspoken labor priests for St. Xavier's in New York's Hell's Kitchen."

It was in 1951 that director Elia Kazan suggested to Budd Schulberg that they should collaborate on a movie about the New York waterfront since they both were already in development on the same idea for a film.

Because he owed Elia Kazan a movie, 20th-Century-Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck initially agreed to produce On the Waterfront, as a prestige project, one that he felt would earn his studio the same acclaim and respect that The Grapes of Wrath (1940) had given it fourteen years earlier. But Zanuck eventually backed out, stating that he felt it was an unworthy subject for the Technicolor canvas of the CinemaScope screen. Zanuck admitted his real thoughts about the project, however, to Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan when he complained, "Who's going to care about a bunch of sweaty longshoremen?"

After being turned down by almost every studio in town, Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan eventually took their screenplay to Sam Spiegel. The tough, veteran producer was looking for a high profile film project like On the Waterfront so he jumped at the chance to produce it.

Sam Spiegel secured distribution through Columbia Studios. Writer Budd Schulberg had earlier refused to work for Columbia at all, because of his intense dislike of Harry Cohn, the studio's chief of production. However, Spiegel finagled a deal that guaranteed no interference from Cohn during the production of On the Waterfront.

Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan based the character of Terry Malloy on an actual longshoreman named Tony Mike deVincenzo, who gave up his reputation, his job, and security from the Mob's violent reprisals in order to testify before the Waterfront Crime Commission.

by Scott McGee

The Big Idea-On the Waterfront

Budd Schulberg based his screenplay on a series of articles that appeared in the New York Sun. Schulberg took a rather unorthodox approach to the material, "applying not a month or two, but years of my life to absorbing everything I could about the New York waterfront, becoming an habitu¿of the West Side Manhattan and Jersey bars, interviewing longshore union leaders and getting to know the fearless and outspoken labor priests for St. Xavier's in New York's Hell's Kitchen." It was in 1951 that director Elia Kazan suggested to Budd Schulberg that they should collaborate on a movie about the New York waterfront since they both were already in development on the same idea for a film. Because he owed Elia Kazan a movie, 20th-Century-Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck initially agreed to produce On the Waterfront, as a prestige project, one that he felt would earn his studio the same acclaim and respect that The Grapes of Wrath (1940) had given it fourteen years earlier. But Zanuck eventually backed out, stating that he felt it was an unworthy subject for the Technicolor canvas of the CinemaScope screen. Zanuck admitted his real thoughts about the project, however, to Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan when he complained, "Who's going to care about a bunch of sweaty longshoremen?" After being turned down by almost every studio in town, Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan eventually took their screenplay to Sam Spiegel. The tough, veteran producer was looking for a high profile film project like On the Waterfront so he jumped at the chance to produce it. Sam Spiegel secured distribution through Columbia Studios. Writer Budd Schulberg had earlier refused to work for Columbia at all, because of his intense dislike of Harry Cohn, the studio's chief of production. However, Spiegel finagled a deal that guaranteed no interference from Cohn during the production of On the Waterfront. Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan based the character of Terry Malloy on an actual longshoreman named Tony Mike deVincenzo, who gave up his reputation, his job, and security from the Mob's violent reprisals in order to testify before the Waterfront Crime Commission. by Scott McGee

Behind the Camera-On the Waterfront


Nearly every scene of On the Waterfront was shot on location in Hoboken, New Jersey, much to the dismay of Columbia Studios' mogul, Harry Cohn; he thought he could exercise tighter control over the picture if it was filmed in Hollywood.

One advantage to filming on location was the brutal reality of the cold, harsh winter weather which lent the production a verisimilitude that could not have been recreated on a Hollywood soundstage.

Even though he considered Elia Kazan a father figure, Marlon Brando was extremely reluctant to accept the lead role in On the Waterfront, since he harbored ill feelings towards the director for cooperating as a friendly witness before the House on Un-American Activities Committee just a year earlier.

Having just earned an Oscar and a professional comeback in the Columbia picture, From Here to Eternity (1953), Frank Sinatra was all set to play the character of Terry Malloy when producer Sam Spiegel convinced Elia Kazan, after several heated discussions, to hire Marlon Brando instead. Brando had already turned down the role several times, mostly because he did not want to work with Kazan, but producer Spiegel and screenwriter Budd Schulberg convinced him otherwise.

Frank Sinatra was extremely bitter about being passed over for the lead role in On the Waterfront and his hard feelings only increased when Sam Spiegel offered him the Father Barry part instead (despite the fact that Karl Malden had already been cast in the role). Elia Kazan, however, refused to dump Malden, and Sinatra settled the matter with a $500,000 lawsuit against Spiegel.

Marlon Brando agreed to star in On the Waterfront with one condition - that he could get off every afternoon at four o'clock to drive across the Hudson River to meet his therapist.

Producer Sam Spiegel was insistent on Schulberg delivering a perfect screenplay for On the Waterfront and harassed the writer constantly with changes and suggestions. One night, his wife awoke to find Budd shaving at three-thirty in the morning. She asked him what the hell he was doing, to which he replied, "I'm driving to New York...to kill Sam Spiegel."

Elia Kazan originally intended to shoot the famous taxicab scene between Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando in an actual cab. But producer Sam Spiegel opted instead to use a shabby old taxicab shell. When the crucial rear-projection equipment was not available to shoot the scene, cameraman Boris Kaufman had to put a small venetian blind across the window and small, flickering lights on the side of the cab to create the illusion of movement.

The famous taxicab scene between Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando is now considered one of the great sequences in American cinema, performed by two master Method actors who partially improvised their dialogue with little to no direction from Elia Kazan.

In his autobiography, director Elia Kazan admitted having uneasy feelings about shooting on location near Mafia operated businesses and hangouts. Local hoods connected to the Costa Nostra were constantly watching the production from the sidelines and would occasionally intimidate Kazan and his crew. Kazan eventually employed an armed bodyguard, Joe Marotta, the brother of the local chief of police.

Sam Spiegel and Elia Kazan hired countless real longshoremen to play extras in the film.

Columbia Studios chief Harry Cohn did not think the line "go to hell," uttered in an exchange between Marlon Brando and Karl Malden, would get pass the censors. But when the Breen Office approved the line without objection, Cohn angrily barraged their office with questions regarding the censoring of lesser offenses in previous Columbia efforts.

Upon completion, Harry Cohn predicted that the $900,000 production would tank, but On the Waterfront grossed more than $9,000,000 upon its initial release.

In his autobiography, Marlon Brando revealed his initial thoughts about his performance. "On the day (Elia Kazan) showed me the completed picture, I was so depressed by my performance I got up and left the screening room. I thought I was a huge failure, and walked out without a word to him. I was simply embarrassed for myself."

by Scott McGee

Behind the Camera-On the Waterfront

Nearly every scene of On the Waterfront was shot on location in Hoboken, New Jersey, much to the dismay of Columbia Studios' mogul, Harry Cohn; he thought he could exercise tighter control over the picture if it was filmed in Hollywood. One advantage to filming on location was the brutal reality of the cold, harsh winter weather which lent the production a verisimilitude that could not have been recreated on a Hollywood soundstage. Even though he considered Elia Kazan a father figure, Marlon Brando was extremely reluctant to accept the lead role in On the Waterfront, since he harbored ill feelings towards the director for cooperating as a friendly witness before the House on Un-American Activities Committee just a year earlier. Having just earned an Oscar and a professional comeback in the Columbia picture, From Here to Eternity (1953), Frank Sinatra was all set to play the character of Terry Malloy when producer Sam Spiegel convinced Elia Kazan, after several heated discussions, to hire Marlon Brando instead. Brando had already turned down the role several times, mostly because he did not want to work with Kazan, but producer Spiegel and screenwriter Budd Schulberg convinced him otherwise. Frank Sinatra was extremely bitter about being passed over for the lead role in On the Waterfront and his hard feelings only increased when Sam Spiegel offered him the Father Barry part instead (despite the fact that Karl Malden had already been cast in the role). Elia Kazan, however, refused to dump Malden, and Sinatra settled the matter with a $500,000 lawsuit against Spiegel. Marlon Brando agreed to star in On the Waterfront with one condition - that he could get off every afternoon at four o'clock to drive across the Hudson River to meet his therapist. Producer Sam Spiegel was insistent on Schulberg delivering a perfect screenplay for On the Waterfront and harassed the writer constantly with changes and suggestions. One night, his wife awoke to find Budd shaving at three-thirty in the morning. She asked him what the hell he was doing, to which he replied, "I'm driving to New York...to kill Sam Spiegel." Elia Kazan originally intended to shoot the famous taxicab scene between Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando in an actual cab. But producer Sam Spiegel opted instead to use a shabby old taxicab shell. When the crucial rear-projection equipment was not available to shoot the scene, cameraman Boris Kaufman had to put a small venetian blind across the window and small, flickering lights on the side of the cab to create the illusion of movement. The famous taxicab scene between Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando is now considered one of the great sequences in American cinema, performed by two master Method actors who partially improvised their dialogue with little to no direction from Elia Kazan. In his autobiography, director Elia Kazan admitted having uneasy feelings about shooting on location near Mafia operated businesses and hangouts. Local hoods connected to the Costa Nostra were constantly watching the production from the sidelines and would occasionally intimidate Kazan and his crew. Kazan eventually employed an armed bodyguard, Joe Marotta, the brother of the local chief of police. Sam Spiegel and Elia Kazan hired countless real longshoremen to play extras in the film. Columbia Studios chief Harry Cohn did not think the line "go to hell," uttered in an exchange between Marlon Brando and Karl Malden, would get pass the censors. But when the Breen Office approved the line without objection, Cohn angrily barraged their office with questions regarding the censoring of lesser offenses in previous Columbia efforts. Upon completion, Harry Cohn predicted that the $900,000 production would tank, but On the Waterfront grossed more than $9,000,000 upon its initial release. In his autobiography, Marlon Brando revealed his initial thoughts about his performance. "On the day (Elia Kazan) showed me the completed picture, I was so depressed by my performance I got up and left the screening room. I thought I was a huge failure, and walked out without a word to him. I was simply embarrassed for myself." by Scott McGee

The Critics Corner-On the Waterfront - Critics' Corner-ON THE WATERFRONT


The New Yorker called On the Waterfront "the sort of galvanic movie we used to get when the Warner Brothers were riding herd on Al Capone and his associates."

The Hollywood Reporter concluded, "After so many costume dramas, it may be just what the box office needs, for On the Waterfront is so stark and gripping that it can only be compared with Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931)."

Time raved that, "Brando in this show is one glorious meathead. The gone look, the...vocabulary and the sexual arrogance are still the Brando brand of behavior. But for once the mannerism converge, like symptoms to point out the nature of the man who has them. The audience may never forget that Brando is acting, but it will know that he is doing a powerful acting job."

Life also sang the film's praises, writing "On the Waterfront is the most brutal movie of the year but it also contains the year's tenderest love scenes. Responsible for both is Marlon Brando."

The New York Times hailed it as "moviemaking of a rare and high order."

Along with Mrs. Miniver (1942), All About Eve (1950), and From Here to Eternity (1953), On the Waterfront captured Oscar nominations in all five acting categories. The film also became the first movie to have three people competing in the same Oscar category, Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, and Lee J. Cobb all lost to Edmond O'Brien for The Barefoot Contessa (1954).

Many critics and industry insiders felt that Eva Marie Saint deserved a Best Actress nomination, but producer Sam Spiegel listed his leading lady as a supporting actress, in order to pull her out of the tight Best Actress race which included such likely winners as Grace Kelly and Judy Garland.

In addition to winning Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Story and Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction (Black and White), and Best Editing, On the Waterfront also garnered awards from the New York Film Critics, National Board of Review, and the Golden Globes.

On the Waterfront received the Golden Cup at the Venice Film Festival.

Danny Peary in Guide for the Film Fanatic wrote that On the Waterfront "had been criticized on several fronts: by those who are angered by its contention that the longshoremen's union was corrupt in 1954 (as suggested by the film's source, newspaper articles by Malcolm Johnson); by those who consider it anti-union; and by those who are angered by how Kazan and Schulberg, two HUAC informers, manipulate viewers into admiring those who inform to the police and the government."

Author and film scholar Robert Sklar wrote "Critics continue to debate whether On the Waterfront conveys democratic values or an image of dockworkers who are passive followers of whoever leads them - the tyrannical boss or the informer. Is it a true expos¿r one that leaves the actual holders of corrupt power (briefly glimpsed in a quick shot of "Mr. Upstairs" during Terry's testimony) untouched? If nothing else, On the Waterfront is a monument to the artistic aspirations and the political compromises of its time."

by Scott McGee and Jeff Stafford

The Critics Corner-On the Waterfront - Critics' Corner-ON THE WATERFRONT

The New Yorker called On the Waterfront "the sort of galvanic movie we used to get when the Warner Brothers were riding herd on Al Capone and his associates." The Hollywood Reporter concluded, "After so many costume dramas, it may be just what the box office needs, for On the Waterfront is so stark and gripping that it can only be compared with Little Caesar (1931) and The Public Enemy (1931)." Time raved that, "Brando in this show is one glorious meathead. The gone look, the...vocabulary and the sexual arrogance are still the Brando brand of behavior. But for once the mannerism converge, like symptoms to point out the nature of the man who has them. The audience may never forget that Brando is acting, but it will know that he is doing a powerful acting job." Life also sang the film's praises, writing "On the Waterfront is the most brutal movie of the year but it also contains the year's tenderest love scenes. Responsible for both is Marlon Brando." The New York Times hailed it as "moviemaking of a rare and high order." Along with Mrs. Miniver (1942), All About Eve (1950), and From Here to Eternity (1953), On the Waterfront captured Oscar nominations in all five acting categories. The film also became the first movie to have three people competing in the same Oscar category, Best Supporting Actor. Unfortunately, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger, and Lee J. Cobb all lost to Edmond O'Brien for The Barefoot Contessa (1954). Many critics and industry insiders felt that Eva Marie Saint deserved a Best Actress nomination, but producer Sam Spiegel listed his leading lady as a supporting actress, in order to pull her out of the tight Best Actress race which included such likely winners as Grace Kelly and Judy Garland. In addition to winning Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Story and Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction (Black and White), and Best Editing, On the Waterfront also garnered awards from the New York Film Critics, National Board of Review, and the Golden Globes. On the Waterfront received the Golden Cup at the Venice Film Festival. Danny Peary in Guide for the Film Fanatic wrote that On the Waterfront "had been criticized on several fronts: by those who are angered by its contention that the longshoremen's union was corrupt in 1954 (as suggested by the film's source, newspaper articles by Malcolm Johnson); by those who consider it anti-union; and by those who are angered by how Kazan and Schulberg, two HUAC informers, manipulate viewers into admiring those who inform to the police and the government." Author and film scholar Robert Sklar wrote "Critics continue to debate whether On the Waterfront conveys democratic values or an image of dockworkers who are passive followers of whoever leads them - the tyrannical boss or the informer. Is it a true expos¿r one that leaves the actual holders of corrupt power (briefly glimpsed in a quick shot of "Mr. Upstairs" during Terry's testimony) untouched? If nothing else, On the Waterfront is a monument to the artistic aspirations and the political compromises of its time." by Scott McGee and Jeff Stafford

On the Waterfront


Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront is an American landmark, now become legend by virtue of the showy performance of its leading man Marlon Brando. The controversial film is also destined to be forever debated for its politics. Its celebrated director would later frequently state that this tale of an informer against the mob was an expression of his own experience cooperating with the HUAC committee back in the days of the Hollywood commie hunt.

The film is exceptional on all counts. The gritty cinematography on the cold New York docks brought a harsh realism to American screens not seen in previous real-location noirs. As with practically all Elia Kazan pictures the acting, directing and writing is of a very high order. This is one of the best Marlon Brando film outings; his pairing with screen newcomer Eva Marie Saint carries even more romantic chemistry than Kazan and Brando's A Streetcar Named Desire. Just the same, Kazan never used quite so heavy-handed an approach to a story, before or after this show. The saga of Terry Malloy comes off as a confused statement of artistic defiance, against Kazan's bitter critics.

On the surface On the Waterfront is similar to other gangland exposé thrillers dramatizing nationally publicized crime investigations, such as the congressional Kefauver Commission. A Federal probe into corruption on the New York docks puts pressure on Union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), a coarse racketeer. Friendly has already silenced squealer Joey Doyle, an ordinary dockworker, by having him thrown to his death from a rooftop. Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), a not-too-bright ex-boxer and kid brother of Friendly's lawyer Charley (Rod Steiger) is appalled to realize that he is complicit in the murder. Terry is drawn to the victim's sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint), who is helping activist priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) locate more 'squealers' that could help the Feds rid the docks of racketeers. Terry finds himself in a no-win predicament, forced to choose between loyalties to family and friends, to his new girlfriend, and to what is right.

The show comes on like gangbusters, leading with Leonard Bernstein's dynamic 'big city' music score and the progressive camera techniques of Boris Kaufman. The film creates a wholly convincing New York environment. We can feel the cold in the docu-realist daytime exteriors, while violent midnight chases make use of expressionistic night-for-night noir techniques. Blending naturally enough into the bitterly cold setting are talented members of the Actors Studio, of which Elia Kazan was a founder. Established superstar Marlon Brando makes a powerful impression, alternately overplaying and underplaying the theatrical Terry Malloy; even audiences with no knowledge of theater craft can see that a lot of acting is going on there. On the other hand, Eva Marie Saint's trembling, emotionally volatile Edie seems a less affected and more honest interpretation. Rod Steiger's Charley is more precise and subtle than Brando, with far less screen time. Although audiences root for Karl Malden's fighting priest, an important facet of the true story on which On the Waterfront is based, the character is both overwritten and overplayed. The "righteous power" of the priest rising with the body of a slain stevedore from the hold of a cargo ship is almost embarrassing. Schulberg and Kazan's Christ/martyr moments in On the Waterfront come close to overwhelming the basic story being told.

Johnny Friendly and his gang of mouth-breathing goons, shockingly enough, are not an exaggeration. Friendly's top associates aren't exactly a brain trust, and tyro actor Fred Gwynne's thug almost looks lobotomized. Kazan and Schulberg want the audience to have no difficulty separating the good heroes from the vile villains. Still, it seems a bit much to have Friendly, emotional fool that he is, lose control and threaten violence in a packed congressional hearing room as live TV cameras roll. Although frequently rising to the level of high drama, On the Waterfront is morally no more sophisticated than the average Republic western.

Marlon Brando surely developed an affinity for characters that pass through a 'growth' experience by getting beaten to a bleeding pulp. Terry Malloy nearly comes back from the dead to lead his fellow stevedores to defy Johnny Friendly, stumbling upwards on his own Via Dolorosa. It's a major expression of cine-masochism. As Emilio Zapata in Viva Zapata!, Brando was ambushed by forty riflemen and then figuratively reincarnated as a white horse. His tough-guy heroes in One-Eyed Jacks, The Chase, The Fugitive Kind and The Appaloosa get similar savage treatment. Even in On the Waterfront, Malloy seems to be enjoying his martyrdom far too much. What could be better as a showcase acting opportunity?

The film is a masterful combination of theatrics and post-noir docu stylization. But its appeal is marred by its political aspect. Several admirers and apologists in the disc extras refer to Elia Kazan as an outsider, a loner who had to go his own way. On the Waterfront seems to exist to romanticize his actions. But was this extended allegory really necessary? Kazan appears to have been that brand of ambitious careerist that sees the professional world as an unforgiving arena of hard winners and soft losers. At most any level of show business the competition for meaningful work is so intense that even 'nice guys' must ruthlessly guard their interests. Kazan's first attempt at developing a screenplay about corruption on the docks fell apart when playwright Arthur Miller wouldn't distort the story's political content to please the studio. Kazan left Miller behind and collaborated instead with Budd Schulberg, famed author of the ultra-cynical novel What Makes Sammy Run? When it came time to safeguard his career, the director named names to HUAC as instructed, directly betraying his long-time collaborators and associates. Kazan's fame and talent were so well established that, had he defied the committee, he might have rallied enough of the industry behind him to shut down the blacklist. He instead gave the witch-hunters added credibility.

That Kazan identified with the 'noble squealer' of On the Waterfront, but Terry Malloy's case for 'justified informing' doesn't even begin to connect with Kazan's HUAC situation. Terry Malloy rats on corrupt gangsters and murderers that oppress workingmen like himself. He chooses to side with the dockworkers and defends their interests, wrapped in the approval of the church and the loving arms of a woman. In contrast, Elia Kazan informed on his own colleagues, writers and other film people already persecuted for their unpopular politics, who had no way of defending themselves when cooperative witnesses threw them to the wolves. The actions of Kazan and his film character don't really align.

Audiences have never really understood the film's obscure conclusion. Just what happens? Unable to show Malloy's martyrdom accomplishing much beyond displacing a few Union racketeers, On the Waterfront segues directly from its Christ allegory to a strangely ambiguous finale. The battered Terry Malloy leads his miserable fellows to answer the whistle of the real big boss, apparently a shipping executive. Nothing has changed for the dockworkers as they disappear behind a pair of giant warehouse doors. This final image has been compared to the vision of the equally powerless workers in Fritz Lang's Metropolis, devoured by the jaws of Moloch. It should be obvious that although Johnny Friendly was a crook, his replacement will also need to be a dirty fighter. To get the bosses to pay a fair wage the dockworkers will need a Union that acts just as tough as Friendly's. The movie touches on this realization only in its last ten or fifteen seconds.

The film's most famous scene is Brando's "I could have been a contender" monologue to Steiger's Charley in the back of a taxicab. It certainly is a powerful loser's lament: Terry is just another pathetic sell-out to misplaced values and ambitions. Several critics including Richard Corliss have pointed out that the scene's theme statement about ambition and corruption was done earlier and more eloquently in a classic taxicab speech in another noir classic, Force of Evil. Unlike Terry Malloy, John Garfield's corrupt attorney knows exactly what he's doing when he sells out his ethics to the mob. His stylized dialogue strikes deeper, to the heart of the issue -- the attorney can't understand why people persist in clinging to sentimental ethics in a system that values only material success. The co-author & director of Force of Evil is Abraham Polonsky. Unlike Kazan, he didn't kowtow to the HUAC and was blacklisted. His ethics cost him twenty productive years while Kazan's career proceeded to many more impressive Hollywood accomplishments. I'm glad we have Elia Kazan's films to enjoy, and On the Waterfront is certainly one of his most prominent. But what of the Abraham Polonsky movies that never got made?

Criterion's Blu-ray of Columbia's On the Waterfront is a terrific HD transfer of this moody, chilly B&W picture, where we can often see the breath of the players in exterior scenes. Critics in 1954 associated visuals like these with admired Italian pictures considered more "real" than shows with Hollywood lighting. In this viewing I especially enjoyed the Leonard Bernstein music score, which frequently sounds like a warm-up for the dynamic compositions in West Side Story.

Criterion's disc producer Issa Clubb has opted to present the film in three aspect ratios: 1:66, 1:85 and 1:33. An extra explaining the reasoning behind this is not particularly compelling. They admit that the film's official AR is 1:85, which does indeed seem a little tight on home monitors. I'd pick 1:66 as a fair compromise, just as Criterion has. Their main piece of evidence is a published list of 1954 Columbia releases with the note that they are screen-able at various ratios. This may not be the definitive statement it claims to be. It's a marketing blurb intended for trade publications, to assure skittish theater owners that they should not hesitate to book widescreen pictures if they haven't yet changed over.

The movie itself is undeniably widescreen, as can be seen in the special Columbia logo chosen (a taller platform for the Torch Lady) and the compositional shape of the main title text blocks. As for the superfluous 1:33 transfer (actually, 1.37:1 is the official flat Academy ratio), it is a precedent I'd like to see Criterion avoid. Several studios are already too cheap to remaster '50s widescreen movies properly, and this encourages them to keep doing so. I know more than one working restoration professional that can't be bothered about accurate ARs, so I can't imagine that the average home video executive gives a damn.

Of course On the Waterfront plays "all right" flat, even though the extra head- and foot-room defocuses dramatic scenes. Seen flat, the famous taxicab scene makes Terry and Charlie look as if they are riding around Manhattan in a funfair Tilt-a-Whirl car. I believe that Sony or Criterion has cheated the transfer in at least one instance. On old TV flat prints I have a strong memory of the scene where Friendly's hoods terrorize the meeting in Karl Malden's church. In the un-matted full frame, a big microphone boom loomed at the top of the frame so distractingly that I pointed it out to people on subsequent viewings. As I don't see the boom on the disc's 1:33 scan, I must conclude that the transfer artiste adjusted the scan to frame it out.

Elia Kazan is of course one of the finest film directors of his time, and Criterion's many extras do no wrong by praising his personal achievement in On the Waterfront. Authors Jeff Young and Richard Schickel provide a laudatory audio commentary. Kent Jones and Martin Scorsese idolize Kazan in a nostalgic video featurette. Two long-form documentaries are included, one from 1982 on Kazan's career and a new item about the making of the film. Another piece addresses the taxicab scene. Eva Marie Saint appears in a new interview and Kazan himself in one from 2001. An actor recruited from the Hoboken neighborhood is interviewed, as is an author expert on the crime-soaked history of the New York docks. Finally, a visual essay on the Leonard Bernstein score is included as well.

For more information about On the Waterfront, visit The Criterion Collection. To order On the Waterfront, go to TCM Shopping.

By Glenn Erickson

On the Waterfront

Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront is an American landmark, now become legend by virtue of the showy performance of its leading man Marlon Brando. The controversial film is also destined to be forever debated for its politics. Its celebrated director would later frequently state that this tale of an informer against the mob was an expression of his own experience cooperating with the HUAC committee back in the days of the Hollywood commie hunt. The film is exceptional on all counts. The gritty cinematography on the cold New York docks brought a harsh realism to American screens not seen in previous real-location noirs. As with practically all Elia Kazan pictures the acting, directing and writing is of a very high order. This is one of the best Marlon Brando film outings; his pairing with screen newcomer Eva Marie Saint carries even more romantic chemistry than Kazan and Brando's A Streetcar Named Desire. Just the same, Kazan never used quite so heavy-handed an approach to a story, before or after this show. The saga of Terry Malloy comes off as a confused statement of artistic defiance, against Kazan's bitter critics. On the surface On the Waterfront is similar to other gangland exposé thrillers dramatizing nationally publicized crime investigations, such as the congressional Kefauver Commission. A Federal probe into corruption on the New York docks puts pressure on Union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), a coarse racketeer. Friendly has already silenced squealer Joey Doyle, an ordinary dockworker, by having him thrown to his death from a rooftop. Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), a not-too-bright ex-boxer and kid brother of Friendly's lawyer Charley (Rod Steiger) is appalled to realize that he is complicit in the murder. Terry is drawn to the victim's sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint), who is helping activist priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) locate more 'squealers' that could help the Feds rid the docks of racketeers. Terry finds himself in a no-win predicament, forced to choose between loyalties to family and friends, to his new girlfriend, and to what is right. The show comes on like gangbusters, leading with Leonard Bernstein's dynamic 'big city' music score and the progressive camera techniques of Boris Kaufman. The film creates a wholly convincing New York environment. We can feel the cold in the docu-realist daytime exteriors, while violent midnight chases make use of expressionistic night-for-night noir techniques. Blending naturally enough into the bitterly cold setting are talented members of the Actors Studio, of which Elia Kazan was a founder. Established superstar Marlon Brando makes a powerful impression, alternately overplaying and underplaying the theatrical Terry Malloy; even audiences with no knowledge of theater craft can see that a lot of acting is going on there. On the other hand, Eva Marie Saint's trembling, emotionally volatile Edie seems a less affected and more honest interpretation. Rod Steiger's Charley is more precise and subtle than Brando, with far less screen time. Although audiences root for Karl Malden's fighting priest, an important facet of the true story on which On the Waterfront is based, the character is both overwritten and overplayed. The "righteous power" of the priest rising with the body of a slain stevedore from the hold of a cargo ship is almost embarrassing. Schulberg and Kazan's Christ/martyr moments in On the Waterfront come close to overwhelming the basic story being told. Johnny Friendly and his gang of mouth-breathing goons, shockingly enough, are not an exaggeration. Friendly's top associates aren't exactly a brain trust, and tyro actor Fred Gwynne's thug almost looks lobotomized. Kazan and Schulberg want the audience to have no difficulty separating the good heroes from the vile villains. Still, it seems a bit much to have Friendly, emotional fool that he is, lose control and threaten violence in a packed congressional hearing room as live TV cameras roll. Although frequently rising to the level of high drama, On the Waterfront is morally no more sophisticated than the average Republic western. Marlon Brando surely developed an affinity for characters that pass through a 'growth' experience by getting beaten to a bleeding pulp. Terry Malloy nearly comes back from the dead to lead his fellow stevedores to defy Johnny Friendly, stumbling upwards on his own Via Dolorosa. It's a major expression of cine-masochism. As Emilio Zapata in Viva Zapata!, Brando was ambushed by forty riflemen and then figuratively reincarnated as a white horse. His tough-guy heroes in One-Eyed Jacks, The Chase, The Fugitive Kind and The Appaloosa get similar savage treatment. Even in On the Waterfront, Malloy seems to be enjoying his martyrdom far too much. What could be better as a showcase acting opportunity? The film is a masterful combination of theatrics and post-noir docu stylization. But its appeal is marred by its political aspect. Several admirers and apologists in the disc extras refer to Elia Kazan as an outsider, a loner who had to go his own way. On the Waterfront seems to exist to romanticize his actions. But was this extended allegory really necessary? Kazan appears to have been that brand of ambitious careerist that sees the professional world as an unforgiving arena of hard winners and soft losers. At most any level of show business the competition for meaningful work is so intense that even 'nice guys' must ruthlessly guard their interests. Kazan's first attempt at developing a screenplay about corruption on the docks fell apart when playwright Arthur Miller wouldn't distort the story's political content to please the studio. Kazan left Miller behind and collaborated instead with Budd Schulberg, famed author of the ultra-cynical novel What Makes Sammy Run? When it came time to safeguard his career, the director named names to HUAC as instructed, directly betraying his long-time collaborators and associates. Kazan's fame and talent were so well established that, had he defied the committee, he might have rallied enough of the industry behind him to shut down the blacklist. He instead gave the witch-hunters added credibility. That Kazan identified with the 'noble squealer' of On the Waterfront, but Terry Malloy's case for 'justified informing' doesn't even begin to connect with Kazan's HUAC situation. Terry Malloy rats on corrupt gangsters and murderers that oppress workingmen like himself. He chooses to side with the dockworkers and defends their interests, wrapped in the approval of the church and the loving arms of a woman. In contrast, Elia Kazan informed on his own colleagues, writers and other film people already persecuted for their unpopular politics, who had no way of defending themselves when cooperative witnesses threw them to the wolves. The actions of Kazan and his film character don't really align. Audiences have never really understood the film's obscure conclusion. Just what happens? Unable to show Malloy's martyrdom accomplishing much beyond displacing a few Union racketeers, On the Waterfront segues directly from its Christ allegory to a strangely ambiguous finale. The battered Terry Malloy leads his miserable fellows to answer the whistle of the real big boss, apparently a shipping executive. Nothing has changed for the dockworkers as they disappear behind a pair of giant warehouse doors. This final image has been compared to the vision of the equally powerless workers in Fritz Lang's Metropolis, devoured by the jaws of Moloch. It should be obvious that although Johnny Friendly was a crook, his replacement will also need to be a dirty fighter. To get the bosses to pay a fair wage the dockworkers will need a Union that acts just as tough as Friendly's. The movie touches on this realization only in its last ten or fifteen seconds. The film's most famous scene is Brando's "I could have been a contender" monologue to Steiger's Charley in the back of a taxicab. It certainly is a powerful loser's lament: Terry is just another pathetic sell-out to misplaced values and ambitions. Several critics including Richard Corliss have pointed out that the scene's theme statement about ambition and corruption was done earlier and more eloquently in a classic taxicab speech in another noir classic, Force of Evil. Unlike Terry Malloy, John Garfield's corrupt attorney knows exactly what he's doing when he sells out his ethics to the mob. His stylized dialogue strikes deeper, to the heart of the issue -- the attorney can't understand why people persist in clinging to sentimental ethics in a system that values only material success. The co-author & director of Force of Evil is Abraham Polonsky. Unlike Kazan, he didn't kowtow to the HUAC and was blacklisted. His ethics cost him twenty productive years while Kazan's career proceeded to many more impressive Hollywood accomplishments. I'm glad we have Elia Kazan's films to enjoy, and On the Waterfront is certainly one of his most prominent. But what of the Abraham Polonsky movies that never got made? Criterion's Blu-ray of Columbia's On the Waterfront is a terrific HD transfer of this moody, chilly B&W picture, where we can often see the breath of the players in exterior scenes. Critics in 1954 associated visuals like these with admired Italian pictures considered more "real" than shows with Hollywood lighting. In this viewing I especially enjoyed the Leonard Bernstein music score, which frequently sounds like a warm-up for the dynamic compositions in West Side Story. Criterion's disc producer Issa Clubb has opted to present the film in three aspect ratios: 1:66, 1:85 and 1:33. An extra explaining the reasoning behind this is not particularly compelling. They admit that the film's official AR is 1:85, which does indeed seem a little tight on home monitors. I'd pick 1:66 as a fair compromise, just as Criterion has. Their main piece of evidence is a published list of 1954 Columbia releases with the note that they are screen-able at various ratios. This may not be the definitive statement it claims to be. It's a marketing blurb intended for trade publications, to assure skittish theater owners that they should not hesitate to book widescreen pictures if they haven't yet changed over. The movie itself is undeniably widescreen, as can be seen in the special Columbia logo chosen (a taller platform for the Torch Lady) and the compositional shape of the main title text blocks. As for the superfluous 1:33 transfer (actually, 1.37:1 is the official flat Academy ratio), it is a precedent I'd like to see Criterion avoid. Several studios are already too cheap to remaster '50s widescreen movies properly, and this encourages them to keep doing so. I know more than one working restoration professional that can't be bothered about accurate ARs, so I can't imagine that the average home video executive gives a damn. Of course On the Waterfront plays "all right" flat, even though the extra head- and foot-room defocuses dramatic scenes. Seen flat, the famous taxicab scene makes Terry and Charlie look as if they are riding around Manhattan in a funfair Tilt-a-Whirl car. I believe that Sony or Criterion has cheated the transfer in at least one instance. On old TV flat prints I have a strong memory of the scene where Friendly's hoods terrorize the meeting in Karl Malden's church. In the un-matted full frame, a big microphone boom loomed at the top of the frame so distractingly that I pointed it out to people on subsequent viewings. As I don't see the boom on the disc's 1:33 scan, I must conclude that the transfer artiste adjusted the scan to frame it out. Elia Kazan is of course one of the finest film directors of his time, and Criterion's many extras do no wrong by praising his personal achievement in On the Waterfront. Authors Jeff Young and Richard Schickel provide a laudatory audio commentary. Kent Jones and Martin Scorsese idolize Kazan in a nostalgic video featurette. Two long-form documentaries are included, one from 1982 on Kazan's career and a new item about the making of the film. Another piece addresses the taxicab scene. Eva Marie Saint appears in a new interview and Kazan himself in one from 2001. An actor recruited from the Hoboken neighborhood is interviewed, as is an author expert on the crime-soaked history of the New York docks. Finally, a visual essay on the Leonard Bernstein score is included as well. For more information about On the Waterfront, visit The Criterion Collection. To order On the Waterfront, go to TCM Shopping. By Glenn Erickson

On the Waterfront


Ex-boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) earns an inconsequential living working for waterfront crime boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). But when he unwittingly lures a rebellious dockworker to his death, Malloy suffers pangs of guilt. Through the love of Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint), the murdered man's sister, and the support of Father Barry (Karl Malden), a crime-fighting priest, Terry finds the moral courage to stand up to Friendly and his goons and accept the violent consequences of his decision.

"The finest thing ever done by an American film actor" was how director Elia Kazan has characterized the performance of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (1954), the classic tale of crime and corruption among unionized dock workers in New York and New Jersey. Brando plays Terry Malloy, a washed-up boxer turned longshoreman who witnesses a murder arranged by a union boss and agrees to testify before the Crime Commission.

Kazan, in developing the film from Malcolm Johnson's Pulitzer Prize-winning articles, originally asked playwright Arthur Miller to write the screenplay. When Miller refused, reportedly because of Kazan's testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities that had implicated others as Communist sympathizers, Kazan turned to novelist/screenwriter Budd Schulberg, who also had "named names" for the Committee. Brando later wrote in his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, that On the Waterfront "was really a metaphorical argument" by Kazan and Schulberg: "They made the film to justify finking on their friends. Evidently, as Terry Malloy, I represented the spirit of the brave, courageous man who defied evil."

Frank Sinatra, who had been Kazan's original choice to play Terry, sued producer Sam Spiegel for breach of contract after Brando was cast instead, and retained bitter feelings for Brando that surfaced when the two co-starred a year later in Guys and Dolls (1955) - with Brando once again in a role that Sinatra coveted. Kazan had considered Grace Kelly and Rosemary Clooney for the role eventually filled by Saint in her film debut. Rod Steiger, who played Terry's weasel-like brother, shares Brando's famous "I coulda been a contender" scene in the taxicab. Steiger also felt a certain bitterness toward Brando because the latter bolted from the set when his portion of that scene was completed, leaving Steiger to play his close-ups to a stand-in.

On the Waterfront won eight Oscars - for Best Picture, Director (Kazan), Actor (Brando), Supporting Actress (Saint), Screenplay (Schulberg), Black-and-White Cinematography, Art Direction/Set Decoration and Editing. No less than three of the film's supporting actors - Cobb, Steiger and Karl Malden, as a priest - were nominated, but the Oscar in that category went to Edmond O'Brien for The Barefoot Contessa. Leonard Bernstein also was nominated for the film's score, his first. Kazan's testimony for the HUAC remained a controversial issue in 1998, when he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar®.

Producer: Sam Spiegel
Director: Elia Kazan
Screenplay: Budd Schulberg, from articles by Malcolm Johnson
Cinematography: Boris Kaufman
Art Direction: Richard Day
Editing: Gene Milford
Original Music: Leonard Bernstein
Principal Cast: Marlon Brando (Terry Malloy), Karl Malden (Father Barry), Lee J. Cobb (Johnny Friendly), Rod Steiger (Charley "The Gent" Malloy), Pat Henning (Timothy J. "Kayo" Dugan), Leif Erickson (Glover, Crime Commission), James Westerfield (Big Mac).
BW-108m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Roger Fristoe and Scott McGee

On the Waterfront

Ex-boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) earns an inconsequential living working for waterfront crime boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). But when he unwittingly lures a rebellious dockworker to his death, Malloy suffers pangs of guilt. Through the love of Edie Doyle (Eva Marie Saint), the murdered man's sister, and the support of Father Barry (Karl Malden), a crime-fighting priest, Terry finds the moral courage to stand up to Friendly and his goons and accept the violent consequences of his decision. "The finest thing ever done by an American film actor" was how director Elia Kazan has characterized the performance of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront (1954), the classic tale of crime and corruption among unionized dock workers in New York and New Jersey. Brando plays Terry Malloy, a washed-up boxer turned longshoreman who witnesses a murder arranged by a union boss and agrees to testify before the Crime Commission. Kazan, in developing the film from Malcolm Johnson's Pulitzer Prize-winning articles, originally asked playwright Arthur Miller to write the screenplay. When Miller refused, reportedly because of Kazan's testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities that had implicated others as Communist sympathizers, Kazan turned to novelist/screenwriter Budd Schulberg, who also had "named names" for the Committee. Brando later wrote in his autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, that On the Waterfront "was really a metaphorical argument" by Kazan and Schulberg: "They made the film to justify finking on their friends. Evidently, as Terry Malloy, I represented the spirit of the brave, courageous man who defied evil." Frank Sinatra, who had been Kazan's original choice to play Terry, sued producer Sam Spiegel for breach of contract after Brando was cast instead, and retained bitter feelings for Brando that surfaced when the two co-starred a year later in Guys and Dolls (1955) - with Brando once again in a role that Sinatra coveted. Kazan had considered Grace Kelly and Rosemary Clooney for the role eventually filled by Saint in her film debut. Rod Steiger, who played Terry's weasel-like brother, shares Brando's famous "I coulda been a contender" scene in the taxicab. Steiger also felt a certain bitterness toward Brando because the latter bolted from the set when his portion of that scene was completed, leaving Steiger to play his close-ups to a stand-in. On the Waterfront won eight Oscars - for Best Picture, Director (Kazan), Actor (Brando), Supporting Actress (Saint), Screenplay (Schulberg), Black-and-White Cinematography, Art Direction/Set Decoration and Editing. No less than three of the film's supporting actors - Cobb, Steiger and Karl Malden, as a priest - were nominated, but the Oscar in that category went to Edmond O'Brien for The Barefoot Contessa. Leonard Bernstein also was nominated for the film's score, his first. Kazan's testimony for the HUAC remained a controversial issue in 1998, when he was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar®. Producer: Sam Spiegel Director: Elia Kazan Screenplay: Budd Schulberg, from articles by Malcolm Johnson Cinematography: Boris Kaufman Art Direction: Richard Day Editing: Gene Milford Original Music: Leonard Bernstein Principal Cast: Marlon Brando (Terry Malloy), Karl Malden (Father Barry), Lee J. Cobb (Johnny Friendly), Rod Steiger (Charley "The Gent" Malloy), Pat Henning (Timothy J. "Kayo" Dugan), Leif Erickson (Glover, Crime Commission), James Westerfield (Big Mac). BW-108m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Roger Fristoe and Scott McGee

TCM Remembers - Rod Steiger


ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002

From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965).

Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema.

It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines.

As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure.

Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie.

Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them.

by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

TCM Remembers - Rod Steiger

ROD STEIGER, 1925 - 2002 From the docks of New York to the rural back roads of Mississippi to the war torn Russian steppes, Rod Steiger reveled in creating some of the most overpowering and difficult men on the screen. He could be a total scoundrel, embodying Machiavelli's idiom that "it's better to be feared than loved" in the movies. But as an actor he refused to be typecast and his wide range included characters who were secretly tormented (The Pawnbroker, 1965) or loners (Run of the Arrow, 1965) or eccentrics (The Loved One, 1965). Along with Marlon Brando, Steiger helped bring the 'Method School' from the Group Theater and Actors Studio in New York to the screens of Hollywood. The Method technique, taught by Stella Adler and Lee Strasberg, insisted on complete immersion into the character's psyche and resulted in intense, dramatic performances and performers. Steiger made his first significant screen appearance as Brando's older brother in On the Waterfront (1954). Their climatic scene together in a taxicab is one of the great moments in American cinema. It was a short leap from playing a crooked lawyer in On the Waterfront to playing the shady boxing promoter in The Harder They Fall (1956). Based on the tragic tale of true-life fighter Primo Carnera, The Harder They Fall details the corruption behind the scenes of professional boxing bouts. Steiger is a fight manager named Nick Benko who enlists newspaperman Eddie Willis (Humphrey Bogart in his final screen appearance) to drum up publicity for a fixed prizefight. While the boxing scenes were often brutally realistic, the most powerful dramatic moments took place between Steiger and Bogart on the sidelines. As mob boss Al Capone (1959), Steiger got to play another man you loved to hate. He vividly depicted the criminal from his swaggering early days to his pathetic demise from syphilis. In Doctor Zhivago (1965), Steiger was the only American in the international cast, playing the hateful and perverse Komarovsky. During the production of Dr. Zhivago, Steiger often found himself at odds with director David Lean. Schooled in the British tradition, Lean valued the integrity of the script and demanded that actors remain faithful to the script. Steiger, on the other hand, relied on improvisation and spontaneity. When kissing the lovely Lara (played by Julie Christie), Steiger jammed his tongue into Christie's mouth to produce the desired reaction - disgust. It worked! While it might not have been Lean's approach, it brought a grittier edge to the prestige production and made Komarovsky is a detestable but truly memorable figure. Steiger dared audiences to dislike him. As the smalltown southern Sheriff Gillespie in In The Heat of the Night (1967), Steiger embodied all the prejudices and suspicions of a racist. When a black northern lawyer, played by Sidney Poitier, arrives on the crime scene, Gillespie is forced to recognize his fellow man as an equal despite skin color. Here, Steiger's character started as a bigot and developed into a better man. He finally claimed a Best Actor Academy Award for his performance as Sheriff Gillespie. Steiger was an actor's actor. A chameleon who didn't think twice about diving into challenging roles that others would shy away from. In the Private Screenings interview he did with host Robert Osborne he admitted that Paul Muni was one of his idols because of his total immersion into his roles. Steiger said, "I believe actors are supposed to create different human beings." And Steiger showed us a rich and diverse cross section of them. by Jeremy Geltzer & Jeff Stafford

ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003


Elia Kazan, one of the modern greats of American film and stage, and whose tremendous artistry in both mediums were overshadowed by his testimony to HUAC during the '50s, died on September 28 of natural causes at his home in New York City. He was 94.

Kazan was born Elias Kazanjoglou in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) on September 7, 1909. In 1913, he immigrated with his parents to New York City, where his father sold rugs for a living. At age 17, Kazan enrolled in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. After graduation, he went to Yale University's School of Drama, where he studied musical theater and began acting and directing plays.

In 1932, Kazan joined New York's socialist minded Group Theatre as an actor and assistant manager. At the time, the Group Theatre was the epicenter for radical thought and activity in the arts. Kazan befriended such notable theater personalities as Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, Stella Adler and Clifford Odets. Kazan even joined the Communist party for two years (1934-36), before resigning because of his disillusionment with its leadership.

After his stint in New York, Kazan went to Hollywood, where he found work as an actor in two Warner Brothers films: City for Conquest (1940) and Blues in the Night (1941). He made his Broadway debut in 1942, directing Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth with Tallulah Bankhead; Fredric March and Montgomery Clift. It was a huge hit. After that success, it was back to Hollywood, this time as a director for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Kazan's directorial film debut was the poignant A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on Betty Smith's bestseller about tenement life. From the beginning, Kazan proved his talent for enticing natural performances from his actors; James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner both won deserved Oscars for their work in this film.

1947 would prove to be a breakthrough year for Kazan. He notched two huge hits on Broadway: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's All My Sons; co-founded the Actors Studio with Lee Strasburg, a leading proponent of "Method" acting that is still widely practiced today; and two potent treatise on anti-Semitism Boomerang and Gentleman's Agreement, the latter earning Kazan his first Oscar. Kazan's next few films were not among his best, but they were well crafted and interesting: Pinky (1949), the story of a light-skinned black woman who passes for white (hampered by Jeanne Crain in the lead); and Panic in the Streets (1950), a taut thriller about efforts to contain a burgeoning epidemic which was shot entirely on the streets of New Orleans.

It wasn't until he brought Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to the big screen that Kazan had a major impact on American cinema. Featuring an explosive Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski, the films' raw sensuality brought a stark and galvanizing realism to cinema that simply hadn't happened before. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) not only earned Kazan another Oscar nod for Best Director, but it made a star out of Brando and earned best acting honors for the rest of the cast: Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter.

It was around this time that Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). On April 10, 1952, he informed on former associates from the Group Theater, including Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, John Garfield, and Lee and Paula Strasberg. Despite formal protests from many acquaintances from his past, including Odets and Arthur Miller, Kazan remained unapologetic to the end for his actions, and he would remain questioned by social critics for the remainder of his life.

Kazan continued his association with Brando in Viva Zapata! (1952), and then in the powerful On the Waterfront (1954), which took eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a second Best Director Oscar for Kazan. Budd Schulberg's incisive drama about the corruption of longshoremen's unions was the perfect subject matter for Kazan's ever trenchant approach to social consciousness and cinematic naturalism.

Kazan's next effort, based on John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955) featured James Dean in his first major role. Kazan's continued ability to draw such raw, vulnerable performances out of his actors (as exemplified by Dean) drew critical praise from all quarters, and the film still stands today as one of the most searing looks of a family in conflict.

After East of Eden, Kazan would never quite scale the artistic heights of his previous movies, yet he still came up with some first-rate cinema: the steamy, boldly suggestive Baby Doll (1956), with a thumb sucking Carol Baker as a provocative child bride; an early, superior look at populist demagoguery A Face in the Crowd (1957) with Andy Griffith giving the performance of his career as a corrupt media darling; the moving coming-of-age drama Splendor in the Grass (1961) starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty; the evocative America, America (1963), based on the experiences of Kazan's own uncle's immigration experience; and his final film The Last Tycoon (1976) an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, which starred Robert De Niro.

Kazan was in retirement for several years, but he made a notorious return to the limelight when in 1999, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decided to give Kazan an honorary Oscar® for lifetime achievement. It was a decision met with vocal protests from aging blacklisted artists as well as younger activists. At the time of the presentation, several audience members would not stand up as a form of protest. Still, Kazan attended the ceremonies, thanked friends and family, avoided political discussion, and went home, a most dignified handling of a very controversial moment. Besides his widow, Frances Rudge, Kazan is survived by his sons, Leo, Marco, and Nicholas, a screenwriter who was nominated for an Oscar for Reversal of Fortune (1990); daughters Judy and Katharine; and several grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

ELIA KAZAN, 1909-2003

Elia Kazan, one of the modern greats of American film and stage, and whose tremendous artistry in both mediums were overshadowed by his testimony to HUAC during the '50s, died on September 28 of natural causes at his home in New York City. He was 94. Kazan was born Elias Kazanjoglou in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) on September 7, 1909. In 1913, he immigrated with his parents to New York City, where his father sold rugs for a living. At age 17, Kazan enrolled in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. After graduation, he went to Yale University's School of Drama, where he studied musical theater and began acting and directing plays. In 1932, Kazan joined New York's socialist minded Group Theatre as an actor and assistant manager. At the time, the Group Theatre was the epicenter for radical thought and activity in the arts. Kazan befriended such notable theater personalities as Lee Strasberg, Harold Clurman, Stella Adler and Clifford Odets. Kazan even joined the Communist party for two years (1934-36), before resigning because of his disillusionment with its leadership. After his stint in New York, Kazan went to Hollywood, where he found work as an actor in two Warner Brothers films: City for Conquest (1940) and Blues in the Night (1941). He made his Broadway debut in 1942, directing Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth with Tallulah Bankhead; Fredric March and Montgomery Clift. It was a huge hit. After that success, it was back to Hollywood, this time as a director for Darryl F. Zanuck at 20th Century Fox. Kazan's directorial film debut was the poignant A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), based on Betty Smith's bestseller about tenement life. From the beginning, Kazan proved his talent for enticing natural performances from his actors; James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner both won deserved Oscars for their work in this film. 1947 would prove to be a breakthrough year for Kazan. He notched two huge hits on Broadway: Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's All My Sons; co-founded the Actors Studio with Lee Strasburg, a leading proponent of "Method" acting that is still widely practiced today; and two potent treatise on anti-Semitism Boomerang and Gentleman's Agreement, the latter earning Kazan his first Oscar. Kazan's next few films were not among his best, but they were well crafted and interesting: Pinky (1949), the story of a light-skinned black woman who passes for white (hampered by Jeanne Crain in the lead); and Panic in the Streets (1950), a taut thriller about efforts to contain a burgeoning epidemic which was shot entirely on the streets of New Orleans. It wasn't until he brought Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire to the big screen that Kazan had a major impact on American cinema. Featuring an explosive Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski, the films' raw sensuality brought a stark and galvanizing realism to cinema that simply hadn't happened before. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) not only earned Kazan another Oscar nod for Best Director, but it made a star out of Brando and earned best acting honors for the rest of the cast: Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter. It was around this time that Kazan testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). On April 10, 1952, he informed on former associates from the Group Theater, including Clifford Odets, Lillian Hellman, John Garfield, and Lee and Paula Strasberg. Despite formal protests from many acquaintances from his past, including Odets and Arthur Miller, Kazan remained unapologetic to the end for his actions, and he would remain questioned by social critics for the remainder of his life. Kazan continued his association with Brando in Viva Zapata! (1952), and then in the powerful On the Waterfront (1954), which took eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and a second Best Director Oscar for Kazan. Budd Schulberg's incisive drama about the corruption of longshoremen's unions was the perfect subject matter for Kazan's ever trenchant approach to social consciousness and cinematic naturalism. Kazan's next effort, based on John Steinbeck's East of Eden (1955) featured James Dean in his first major role. Kazan's continued ability to draw such raw, vulnerable performances out of his actors (as exemplified by Dean) drew critical praise from all quarters, and the film still stands today as one of the most searing looks of a family in conflict. After East of Eden, Kazan would never quite scale the artistic heights of his previous movies, yet he still came up with some first-rate cinema: the steamy, boldly suggestive Baby Doll (1956), with a thumb sucking Carol Baker as a provocative child bride; an early, superior look at populist demagoguery A Face in the Crowd (1957) with Andy Griffith giving the performance of his career as a corrupt media darling; the moving coming-of-age drama Splendor in the Grass (1961) starring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty; the evocative America, America (1963), based on the experiences of Kazan's own uncle's immigration experience; and his final film The Last Tycoon (1976) an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished final novel, which starred Robert De Niro. Kazan was in retirement for several years, but he made a notorious return to the limelight when in 1999, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' decided to give Kazan an honorary Oscar® for lifetime achievement. It was a decision met with vocal protests from aging blacklisted artists as well as younger activists. At the time of the presentation, several audience members would not stand up as a form of protest. Still, Kazan attended the ceremonies, thanked friends and family, avoided political discussion, and went home, a most dignified handling of a very controversial moment. Besides his widow, Frances Rudge, Kazan is survived by his sons, Leo, Marco, and Nicholas, a screenwriter who was nominated for an Oscar for Reversal of Fortune (1990); daughters Judy and Katharine; and several grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

You know, I seen you a lot of times before. Remember parochial school out on Paluski Street? Seven, eight years ago. Your hair, you had your hair uh...
- Terry Malloy
Braids.
- Edie Doyle
Looked like a hunk of rope. And you had wires on your teeth and glasses and everything. You was really a mess.
- Terry Malloy
Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary.
- Father Barry
You want to know what's wrong with our waterfront? It's the love of a lousy buck. It's making love of a buck---the cushy job---more important than the love of man!
- Father Barry
Shouldn't everybody care about everybody else?
- Edie
Boy, what a fruitcake you are!
- Terry Malloy
Which side are you with?
- Edie
Me? I'm with me, Terry.
- Terry Malloy

Trivia

The film was inspired by "Crime on the Waterfront", a series of articles in the New York Sun that won 'Johnson, Malcolm' the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for Reporting.

Arthur Miller (I) was approached by Elia Kazan to write the screenplay, but he turned it down because he felt that Kazan might have named him as a Communist during his secret appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

At the hearing, Slim gives his name as "Malden Skulovich", which is co-star Karl Malden's real name.

Film debut of Eva Marie Saint -- a debut performance that won her the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.

The only film that wasn't a musical for which Leonard Bernstein wrote the incidental music.

Notes

The working titles of the film were Crime on the Waterfront, Bottom of the River and Waterfront. The title was changed from Waterfront just before the film's release to avoid conflict with a half-hour syndicated television series of the same name that followed the adventures of a tugboat captain. Budd Schulberg based his story and screenplay on Malcolm Johnson's Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles on longshoremen and union corruption, "Crime on the Waterfront," which ran from November-December 1948 in The New York Sun. According to a modern article, he wrote about the film, Schulberg did additional research on New York and New Jersey waterfronts with longshoremen and Father John Corridan (the basis for "Father Barry") of St. Xavier's Church in Manhattan, and attended the New York Waterfront Crime Hearings, which were the basis for the script's climax.
       An August 1949 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Twentieth Century-Fox was to bid for the rights to Johnson's series, which were held by independent producer Joseph Curtis, the son of Columbia vice-president Jack Cohn. A January 1951 New York Times article indicated that Schulberg was at the time writing a waterfront crime story for Curtis Monticello Film Corp., which Robert Siodmak was to direct. According to a New York Times article, in December 1952, Schulberg purchased Monticello's rights to Johnson's series and to a script Monticello was working on, then tentatively titled Bottom of the River. According to a Hollywood Reporter article, Elia Kazan agreed to direct the film by mid-April 1953. In his autobiography, Kazan stated that he was especially interested in the story because an earlier project on waterfront corruption, The Hook, on which he was working with playwright Arthur Miller for Columbia, fell through.
       Because Kazan was completing a film at Fox and contractually owed them another, he and Schulberg offered head of production Darryl F. Zanuck the Waterfront script. February 1953 correspondence between Zanuck and Kazan, which was reproduced in a collection of the producer's memos, indicates the studio's concern with the story's lengthy diatribes against union corruption. Zanuck suggested other changes in the script (which at that point included "Terry Malloy" having a young teenage son) and stressed that the story needed strong box-office appeal and powerful star personalities before the studio would commit to the production. Zanuck met with Schulberg about the script and wrote Kazan that if Marlon Brando was secured for the part of Terry, the studio could justify the budget for a top production. Brando, a member of Kazan's New York Actors Studio, had worked with him in two major productions, Warner Bros. A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951 and Twentieth Century Fox's Viva Zapata! in 1952 (see below). A May 1953 Daily Variety item reports that writer-photographer Sam Shaw filed suit for $60,000 against Twentieth Century-Fox and Schulberg, claiming he had served as a "go-between" in the story purchase and assisted in scripting. The outcome of the suit has not been determined.
       Kazan stated in his autobiography that Zanuck eventually turned down the film because it was to be shot in black and white, in standard format, not in the new CinemaScope format used extensively at Fox since its introduction in 1953. Zanuck admitted in a July 1954 letter to Kazan that "CinemaScope was responsible...for my decision against the property...We had committed ourselves to a program of spectacles." In various contemporary and modern articles and interviews about the development and production of On the Waterfront, Schulberg stated that after Zanuck's rejection, Warner Bros., M-G-M, Universal and Columbia all deemed the script too controversial and turned it down.       In mid-1953, independent producer Sam Spiegel agreed to take over production and arranged distribution through United Artists. In September 1953, according to various news items, interviews and autobiographies of Kazan and Schulberg, Frank Sinatra, a native of Hoboken, NJ, where much of the film was to be shot, was approached to play Terry. Sinatra met with Kazan to discuss the role, at the same time that Spiegel was in discussions with Brando. Kazan stated that Brando returned the script twice without reading it and that Spiegel claimed to be having difficulty convincing Brando to work with Kazan because the actor objected to the director's testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1952. Kazan's autobiography indicates that Spiegel advised Kazan that Brando would raise more money than Sinatra, whose comeback film, Columbia's From Here to Eternity had just been released and Sinatra was officially dropped from consideration.
       A modern Brando biography indicates that before the actor committed to the film, Kazan considered casting Actor's Studio alumnus Paul Newman, who at that time had not yet made a film but in February 1953 had caused a sensation on Broadway when he opened in Josh Logan's Picnic. Kazan cast the film primarily with members of The Actor's Studio, which he co-founded in the late 1940s. In addition to Brando, other members of the Actor's Studio cast included Karl Malden, Rod Steiger and Lee J. Cobb. The picture marked the motion picture debut of Eva Marie Saint, who was hired just before the start of production and had until then worked only on stage and television. The film also marked the debut of character actor Martin Balsam. Kazan also hired former prizefighters "Two-Ton" Tony Galento, Abe Simon and Tami Mauriello to play mob figures working for "Johnny Friendly." Leonard Bernstein agreed to score the film after viewing a rough-cut with Kazan and Brando. It was Bernstein's only film score.
       In his autobiography, Kazan claimed that during the entire location shooting on the Hoboken docks, he had a bodyguard on-set out of concern that union members might be apprehensive that the film debased their profession. Kazan noted that many longshoremen were used as extras, thus adding credibility to the scenes. A November 1953 New York Times article also indicates that a young local teen, John McComb, was signed during filming but his participation in the final film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Eddie Barr as prop man and Roger Donoghue as technical advisor.
       In later years, Kazan repeatedly praised Brando for his spontaneity during filming which he felt elicited great empathy for the role of the conflicted Terry. Brando also delivered one of the most quoted lines in Hollywood history, in the "taxicab scene" in which Terry tells his brother that if "Charley" had not sold him out: "I could'a had class, I could'a been a contender, I could'a been somebody." Kazan praised Brando for insisting on adding Terry's saddened motioning away of Charley's gun before delivering the speech, something the director thought added a richer dimension of poignancy. Brando states in his autobiography that he was so distressed by what he considered a poor performance on his part, that he departed a preview screening without comment. Kazan also frequently compared Terry's action to his own decision to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
       According to information contained in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, after reading the script, PCA officials became concerned about the level of violence contained in the film. As a result, the scenes of Terry's beating were reduced substantially. In April 1954 the MPAA Board of Directors met to discuss the controversy surrounding Terry twice telling Father Barry "go to hell." In earlier correspondence between PCA head Joseph I. Breen and the MPAA New York head Eric Johnston, Breen wrote: "The expression "Go to Hell" is not used in a casual manner, as a vulgarism, or flippant profanity. It is used seriously and with intrinsic validity..." The Board of Directors approved the phrase, which caused some protest from other studios whose similar requests had been denied.
       A Hollywood Reporter November 1953 item disclosed that days before On the Waterfront was to begin shooting, UA and Spiegel parted ways over casting and budget disputes and the producer finalized a distribution deal with Columbia. The film marked the first time Spiegel used his own name onscreen rather than "S. P. Eagle." The picture opened to high critical and public praise after its July 1954 New York City premiere at the Astor Theater. The Hollywood Reporter review stated: "This brutal, violently realistic drama set against the sordid background of the New York waterfront, packs a terrific wallop that results in topflight entertainment....The story is as fresh and terrifying as today's newspaper.... Marlon Brando... delivers a performance that grabs your heart in a calloused fist and never lets go." Daily Variety described Brando's performance as "a spectacular show." New York Times called the film "an uncommonly powerful, exciting and imaginative use of the screen by gifted professionals" and Brando's performance "a shatteringly poignant portrait... beautiful and moving."
       In April 1955, after On the Waterfront's successful release and numerous critical accolades, Sinatra filed a breach of contract suit against Spiegel and Horizon-American Corp. for $500,000 for his failure to be cast as Terry. Spiegel and the co-defendants claimed there was never any written deal with Sinatra, only an oral agreement. The outcome of the suit has not been determined. In December 1954 Anthony De Vincinzo, who Schulberg admitted was one of the many longshoremen with whom he consulted while researching the story, sued Spiegel and Columbia for $1,000,000, claiming that his rights of privacy had been invaded. The suit charged that details of De Vincinzo's life were used in the creation of Terry including his boxing past, his work as a Hoboken longshoreman and his enthusiasm for pigeons without his consent. The suit was settled out of court for $25,000 in June 1956.
       The film won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint), Best Direction, Best Writing, Best Art Direction (b&w), Best Cinematography (b&w) and Best Editing. The film also received three nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger) and a nomination for Best Music. Two months after the Academy Award presentation, in May 1955, Monticello Film Corp. demanded that the Academy take back Budd Schulberg's writing award. According to a Hollywood Reporter item, Monticello had filed suit in October 1954 against Schulberg, Kazan, Spiegel, Horizon-American Pictures (Spiegel's company), Columbia and Malcolm Johnson, claiming that Schulberg was under their employ when he dramatized Johnson's series. The outcome of the suit has not been determined but the award remained with Schulberg. In 1998, the American Film Institute voted On the Waterfront as one of the top ten best films of the first hundred years of cinema.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1954 (Shown at the Venice Film Festival 1954.)

Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (American Museum of the Moving Image) as part of program "The Essential Brando" March 16 - April 7, 1996.)

Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Kazan" November 22 - December 26, 1996.)

Re-released in United States on Video February 13, 1996

Voted Best Picture of the Year by the 1954 National Board of Review.

Voted Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor (Brando) by the 1954 New York Film Critics Association.

Voted One of Year's Ten Best Films by the 1954 New York Times Film Critics.

Winner of the Silver Lion at the 1954 Venice Film Festival.

Released in United States 1954

Released in United States 1978

Released in United States 1996

Released in United States Fall October 1954

Released in United States October 1998

Re-released in United States on Video February 13, 1996

Shown at Heartland Film Festival (Special Screening) in Indianapolis, Indiana October 21-27, 1998.

Shown at the Venice Film Festival 1954.

Released in USA on video.

James Wong Howe shot a number of sequences at the end of the film when Boris Kaufman was not available.

Selected in 1989 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.

Selected in 1998 as one of the AFI's list of 100 Greatest American Films of the century.

Released in United States 1978 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Special Programs - "Salute to Oscar" - Filmex Marathon) April 13 - May 7, 1978.)

Released in United States Fall October 1954

Released in United States October 1998 (Shown at Heartland Film Festival (Special Screening) in Indianapolis, Indiana October 21-27, 1998.)