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On the Waterfront
Alternate Title: Waterfront
Director: Elia Kazan (Dir)
Release Date:   Oct 1954
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 28 Jul 1954
Production Date:   17 Nov 1953--26 Jan 1954
Duration (in mins):   107-108
Duration (in reels):   11
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Cast:   Marlon Brando (Terry Malloy)  
    Karl Malden (Father Barry)  
    Lee J. Cobb (Johnny Friendly)  
    Rod Steiger (Charley "the Gent" Malloy)  
    Pat Henning (Kayo Dugan)  
    Leif Erickson (Eddy Glover)  
    James Westerfield (Big Mac)  
    Tony Galento (Truck)  
    Tami Mauriello (Tillio)  
    John Hamilton (Pop Doyle)  
    John Heldabrand (Mott)  
    Rudy Brand (Moose)  
    Don Blackman (Luke)  
    Arthur Keegan (Jimmy)  
    Abe Simon (Barney)  
  And introducing Eva Marie Saint (Edie Doyle)  
    Barry Macollum (J. P.)  
    Mike O'Dowd (Specs)  
    Martin Balsam (Gillette)  
    Fred Gwynne (Slim)  
    Thomas Handley (Tommy)  
    Anne Hegira (Mrs. Collins)  
    Nehemiah Persoff (Cab driver)  

Summary: 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. Meanwhile, Terry is approached by Crime Commission representative Eddy Glover, but refuses to discuss Joey. Edie then 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. As the men disperse for work, Father Barry asks some of them to meet later 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 at the meeting in the church, Father Barry adamantly declares that mob control of the docks must end and demands information 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. Eventually, 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 at the bar, 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 further. 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. 

Production Company: Horizon-American Pictures, Inc..  
Production Text: An Elia Kazan Production
Distribution Company: Columbia Pictures Corp.  
Director: Elia Kazan (Dir)
  Charles H. Maguire (Asst dir)
Producer: Sam Spiegel (Prod)
Writer: Budd Schulberg (Scr based on an orig story)
Photography: Boris Kaufman (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
Film Editor: Gene Milford (Film ed)
Costumes: Anna Hill Johnstone (Ward supv)
  Flo Transfield (Ward mistress)
Music: Leonard Bernstein (Mus)
Sound: James Shields (Sd)
  Ernie Reichert (Sd ed)
  Evelyn Rutledge (Sd ed)
Make Up: Mary Roche (Hairstylist)
  Fred Ryle (Makeup supv)
Production Misc: Sam Rheiner (Asst to prod)
  George Justin (Prod mgr)
  Roberta Hodes (Scr supv)
  Guy Thomajan (Dial supv)
Country: United States
Language: English

Music:
Songs:
Source Text: Suggested by the articles "Crime on the Waterfront" by Malcolm Johnson in The New York Sun (Nov--Dec 1948).
Authors: Malcolm Johnson

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Columbia Pictures Corp. 29/7/1954 dd/mm/yyyy LP3901

PCA NO: 16916
Physical Properties: Sd: Western Electric Recording
  b&w:
  Widescreen/ratio: 1.85:1

 
Genre: Drama
 
Subjects (Major): Corruption
  Gangsters
  Longshoremen
  Moral reformation
  Priests
  Trade unions
  Waterfronts
 
Subjects (Minor): Bars
  Betrayal
  Bribery
  Brothers
  Churches
  Coats
  Dancing
  Docks
  Family relationships
  Fistfights
  Gloves
  Hearings
  Investigations
  Lawyers
  Murder
  Panhandlers
  Pigeons
  Pistols
  Police
  Romance
  Rooftops
  Subpoena
  Taxicabs
  Tests of character
  Threats

Note: 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 Nov--Dec 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 Aug 1949 HR 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 Jan 1951 NYT 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 NYT article, in Dec 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 HR article, Elia Kazan agreed to direct the film by mid-Apr 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. Feb 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 DV 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 Jul 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 Sep 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 (see above) 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 Feb 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 Nov 1953 NYT 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 Apr 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 HR Nov 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 Jul 1954 New York City premiere at the Astor Theater. The HR 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.” DV described Brando’s performance as “a spectacular show.” NYT 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 Apr 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 Dec 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 Jun 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 HR item, Monticello had filed suit in Oct 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. On the Waterfront was ranked 19th on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 8th position it held on AFI's 1997 list. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   24 Jul 1954.   
Daily Variety   18 May 1953.   
Daily Variety   3 Dec 1953.   
Daily Variety   14 Jul 54   p. 3.
Daily Variety   22 Dec 1954.   
Daily Variety   29 Jun 1956.   
Film Daily   14 Jul 54   p. 8.
G. Q.   Oct 1994.   
Hollywood Reporter   9 Aug 1949.   
Hollywood Reporter   16 Apr 1953   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   18 May 1953   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Nov 1953.   
Hollywood Reporter   27 Nov 1953   p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Jan 1954   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Jan 1954   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Apr 1954   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   14 Jul 54   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Oct 1954   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   26 Apr 1956.   
Los Angeles Examiner   4 Apr 1955.   
Life   19 Jul 1954.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   17 Jul 54   p. 65.
New York Times   1 Jan 1951.   
New York Times   29 Dec 1952.   
New York Times   22 Nov 1953.   
New York Times   23 May 1954.   
New York Times   29 Jul 54   p. 18.
Variety   25 Nov 1953.   
Variety   14 Jul 54   p. 6.
Variety   27 Apr 1955.   
Variety   25 Jan 1999.   

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