The Best of Pictures: On The Waterfront

9 Feb

Tyler and Josh discuss Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront, the Best Picture of 1954.

2 Responses to “The Best of Pictures: On The Waterfront”

  1. Esther O'Reilly February 12, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

    I first saw this in high school, around the time I first saw Bridge On the River Kwai and other classic Best Picture winners. I loved it from the beginning, but then again I had a really unusual education that prepared me to be able to appreciate its themes, even though I didn’t quite understand all the ins and outs of the union politics, or what precisely Terry’s stand meant. That came later, and when I re-watched it I had an even deeper appreciation for its background and the connection with Kazan’s HUAC testimony. A book I would highly recommend about American communism is called Witness, by Whittaker Chambers. It chronicles Chambers’s journey out of communism, after being sucked in as a lonely young guy who yearned to be part of a brotherhood/community. Witness really tears off the mask of the communist party. It tells the stories of the men who would disappear and be found “dead by suicide” days later, including one who told his family over and over, “If you ever hear that I’ve killed myself, don’t believe it.” So re-watching On the Waterfront with that book in the furniture of my mind made the experience even richer and more significant. The mob offers Terry a false love and a false brotherhood, just like what the communist party offered to Chambers.

    Kazan’s description of Brando as “a dumb kid whose done terrible things” is spot-on, I think. I agree that the characterization of Rocky drew heavily from Terry Malloy. Both films even have parallel “no means yes” scenes with the love interest.

    Side note: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was a childhood favorite, and I have every song memorized, so maybe I can’t talk about it without bias. But it’s quite a nice film (if you can get past the uber-sexist “Sabine Women” song). I think it’s a thoughtful look at the nature of marriage in the American West. The central romance is quite well written and acted: The woman is one of the better drawn female characters in a musical that I’ve seen.

  2. Esther O'Reilly February 12, 2017 at 1:30 pm #


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