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On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront is an American 1954 film about mob violence and corruption among longshoremen, and became a standard of its kind. The film was directed by Elia Kazan and stars Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, and Karl Malden. more...

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The film deals with social issues which paralleled the emerging organization of labor.

It is seen by many as a jab by Kazan at his former close friend, Arthur Miller, who along with Lillian Hellman was bitterly and openly resentful of Kazan's "betrayal" of film artists to the HUAC as "communists". Specifically, it may be a direct response to Miller's A View from the Bridge, which tells a very similar story but portrays the protagonist in disesteem. On the Waterfront, being about a heroic mob informer, is widely considered to be Kazan's answer to his critics. Miller's The Crucible, about a heroic New England Puritan who chooses to die rather than make false accusations of witchcraft, is considered a follow-up response to Kazan.

In On the Waterfront its protagonist's (Terry Malloy's) fight against corruption was modeled after whistle-blowing longshoreman Anthony (tony mike) De Vincenzo. Who testified before a real-life Waterfront Commission on the facts of life on the Hoboken docks and had suffered a degree of ostracization for his deed.DiVincenzo sued & settled, many years after, with Columbia Pictures over the appropriation of what he considered his story. In which he recounted his story to Schulberg during a month-long session of waterfront barroom meetings - which some claim never occured -even though Shulberg attended De Vincenzo's waterfront commission testimony every day during the hearing. Johnny Friendly was based on mobster Albert Anastasia, chief executioner of Murder, Inc.

The film later was called "culturally significant" by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. Terry Malloy's line in the film, "You don't understand. I could've had class. I could've been a contender. I could've been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am", was voted in a 2005 poll by the American Film Institute as the third most memorable line in cinema history .

It was the winner of eight Oscars:

  • Best Actor - Marlon Brando
  • Best Picture - Sam Spiegel, producer
  • Best Supporting Actress - Eva Marie Saint
  • Best Art Direction - Set Decoration, Black-and-White - Richard Day
  • Best Cinematography, Black-and-White - Boris Kaufman
  • Directing - Elia Kazan
  • Film Editing - Gene Milford
  • Writing, Story and Screenplay - Budd Schulberg

The film also received an additional four Oscar nominations:

  • Best Supporting Actor - Lee J. Cobb
  • Best Supporting Actor - Karl Malden
  • Best Supporting Actor - Rod Steiger
  • Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture - Leonard Bernstein


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