Dr. H Takes A Look At The Brando Classic: On The Waterfront.

27 Dec

Whenever I heard a performance being hailed as electrifying, I would regard it as the usual critics hyperbole, a poverty of expression.  An extravagance bestowed upon an artist seemed unworthy, ignoring the higher skill of the directors who are real artists.

Once you have seen On the Waterfront, you’ll immerse yourself in the small world of a small time ex-prize fighter, Miki Malone, played by Marlon Brando with such finesse that I promise you will never doubt a performance could underwhelm a director’s craft and in this case a well-respected Elia Kazan.

On the Waterfront needs to be viewed through the historical prism, it is a product of its time that we would rather forget: the early 1950’s the age of McCarthyism.  A time when any perceived criticism of the status quo, any distrust of the system or even complaining about corruption was seen as sympathizing with Communists.

The simple story about a dockyard union boss and his corrupt minions was seen by McCarthy as a metaphor for American business and Malone the honest guy who stood up against him became synonymous with radical purpose.  Both Kazan and Brando had to appear before McCarthy’s commission to clear their names and Kazan even had to go so far as to rat on several of his colleagues in order to save himself.

Nonetheless Brando’s performance lives on.  It’s a simple story of two brothers Mallone the simpleton who gave up a shot at the title, “taking a dive” in a fight on orders from the mob that controlled the New Jersey docks.  His brother is the crooked attorney who is on the union’s payroll and a priest trying to organize a peaceful revolt.

The Heroine, “Edie”’s brother is killed by the mob after Mallone unknowingly helps them by calling him out of his house.

The two excellent and probably most famous dramatic scenes are shown here.

The first is where Brando describes to Edie the circumstances of her brother’s death.  The conversation is drowned out by an approaching train.  That is classic Kazan—a director’s genius at work. 

The second involves the famous conversation between Brando and his brother in the back seat of a car where Brando famously declares “I could have been a contender.”

If you want to see a masterpiece, watch this one, you will not regret it.


Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Movie Reviews


7 responses to “Dr. H Takes A Look At The Brando Classic: On The Waterfront.

  1. the person you disappeared on

    December 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Talk about completing missing the huge controversy that continues to haunt Kazan and his legacy. Dr. H must not know that Kazan was happy to report on his friends and died insisting he did the right thing.

    Also, this piece is in serious need of a good edit.


  2. Dr H

    January 2, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    You are right about editing; blame it on Jp, he was supposed to edit the piece which was hurriedly written. Regarding your comment about Kazan being happy to rat on his colleagues,I doubt that Kazan was actually happy. The conspiracy theorists believe that the names he came up with were small fry, that he actually sheilded the bigger names.


    • jpfmovies

      January 2, 2011 at 6:29 pm

      Bull Shit don’t blame me for the text, what appears is an exact transcription of what was hand written and delivered to me.


  3. Dr H

    January 2, 2011 at 10:07 pm



    • Bonnie

      January 19, 2011 at 10:18 pm

      Even Encyclopedia Britannica contains errors (a multitude of them!). And this website is a labor of love, not a publication. So chill out, everyone.


  4. Person

    January 5, 2011 at 2:33 am

    I maintain my position on Kazan. Take a look at this from “Naming Names”, the quintessential book on the HUAC/McCarthy period:

    If we are to understand why so many otherwise high-minded people agreed to lend themselves to HUAC’s degradation ceremonies, Kazan is a good place to begin. Not because he is typical–he was too successful, articulate, self-aware, and visible to be that–but because in his life, his politics, and his art he has done as much to defend the naming of names as his old colleague Miller has done to challenge it.

    Furthermore, for anyone who lost his/her career as a result of Kazan’s testimony, being a small-fry was small consolation. The results were catastrophic. Examine what happened to John Garfield as just one example.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: