On the Waterfront (1954)

On the Waterfront (1954)

This Best Picture Oscar winner was Best Director Elia Kazan’s justification for "ratting" on friends and colleagues to the House Un-American Activities Committee. This crime drama’s (thinly veiled) story is about the onset of the Waterfront Crime Commission’s hearings on union crime and underworld (vs. communist) infiltration. Five acting Academy Award nominations with Brando (Terry Malloy is AFI’s #23 hero) winning his first Oscar on his fourth consecutive Best Actor nomination; the Supporting Actress Award went to Eva Marie Saint (in her screen debut!) on her only nomination. The excellent cast also included Oscar nominated performances by Lee J. Cobb Karl Malden and Rod Steiger. In all eight Oscars (out of 12 nominations) including winning Best Writing – Story and Screenplay (Budd Schulberg’s only) Richard Day’s B&W Art Direction-Set Decoration Boris Kaufman’s B&W Cinematography and Gene Milford’s Editing; Leonard Bernstein’s Score was also nominated. Added to the National Film Registry in 1989. #8 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies list. "You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody instead of a bum which is what I am." is #3 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Quotes list. #22 on AFI’s Top 25 Film Scores list. #36 on AFI’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies list.

Terry Malloy (Brando) is an ex-fighter who "coulda been a contender" that works as a longshoreman in Johnny Friendly’s (Cobb) union. Prior to the public hearings of the Waterfront Crime Commission investigating corruption on the docks a man is killed who happens to have an attractive sister Edie Doyle (Saint). Brando’s character falls for Edie and she introduces him to a Father Barry (Malden) who tries to convince Terry to testify. However Terry’s lawyer brother Charley ‘the Gent’ (Steiger) who works for Friendly tries to convince him otherwise. There’s a showdown.

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