ON THE WATERFRONT A Masterpiece

 

 

Director Elia Kazan talks about Brando’s performance in this classic drama romance:

“ … what was extraordinary about his performance, I feel, is the contrast of the tough-guy front and the extreme delicacy and gentle cast of his behavior. What another actor, when his brother draws a pistol to force him to do something shameful, would put his hand on the gun and push it away with the gentleness of a caress? Who else could read `Oh, Charley!’ in a tone of reproach that is so loving and so melancholy and suggests the terrific depth of pain?”

Kazan in A Life (biography), also states, “I was tasting vengeance that night and enjoying it. `On the Waterfront’ is my story; every day I worked on that film, I was telling the world where I stood and my critics to go and – – – – themselves.”

“This classic story of Mob informers was based on some true stories and filmed on location in and around the docks of New York and New Jersey.  Mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) rules the waterfront with an iron fist. The police know that he’s responsible for some murders, but witnesses play deaf and dumb (“plead D & D”). Washed-up boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) has had an errand-boy job because of the influence of his brother Charley, a crooked union lawyer (Rod Steiger). Witnessing one of Friendly’s rub-outs, Terry is willing to keep his mouth shut until he meets the dead dockworker’s sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint). “Waterfront priest” Father Barry (Karl Malden) tells Terry that Edie’s brother was killed because he was going to testify against boss Friendly before the Crime Commission.  Terry feels somewhat responsible for the death. When Father Barry receives a beating from Friendly’s goons, Terry is persuaded to cooperate with the commission. Featuring Brando’s famous “I coulda been a contendah” speech, On the Waterfront has often been seen as an allegory of “naming names” against suspected Communists during the anti-Communist investigations of the 1950s. Director Elia Kazan famously informed on suspected Communists before a government committee — unlike many of his colleagues, some of whom went to prison for refusing to “name names” and many more of whom were blacklisted from working in the film industry for many years to come — and Budd Schulberg’s screenplay has often been read as an elaborate defense of the informer’s position. On the Waterfront won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Brando, and Best Supporting Actress for Saint.” – Rotten Tomatoes

On the Waterfront was nominated for eleven Oscars and won eight.  This film highlights a bold fight against corruption with unforgettable dialogue and a riveting romance that keeps this 60-year-old film just as powerful and influential today as it was in 1954.

 

Shut up about that conscience...  That’s all I’ve heard about.”  Marlon Brando delivers the crux of his character and the film in his unique style.

MARLON BRANDO

Marlon Brando is widely considered the greatest movie actor of all time, rivaled only by the more theatrically oriented Laurence Olivier regarding esteem. Unlike Olivier, who preferred the stage to the screen, Brando concentrated his talents on movies after bidding the Broadway stage adieu in 1949, a decision for which he was severely criticized when his star began to dim in the 1960s, and he was excoriated for squandering his talents. No actor ever exerted such a profound influence on succeeding generations of actors as did Brando. More than 50 years after he first scorched the screen as Stanley Kowalski in the movie version of Tennessee Williams‘ A Streetcar Named Desire(1951) and a quarter-century after his last great performance as Col. Kurtz in Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now (1979), all American actors are still being measured by the yardstick that was Brando. It was if the shadow of John Barrymore, the great American actor closest to Brando regarding talent and stardom, dominated the acting field up until the 1970s. He did not, nor did any other actor so dominate the public’s consciousness of what WAS an actor before or since Brando’s 1951 on-screen portrayal of Stanley made him a cultural icon. Brando eclipsed the reputation of other great actors circa 1950, such as Paul Muni and Fredric March. Only the luster of Spencer Tracy‘s reputation hasn’t dimmed when seen in the starlight thrown off by Brando. However, neither Tracy nor Olivier created an entire school of acting just by the force of his personality. Brando did.

Born Marlon Brando Jr. on April 3, 1924, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Marlon Brando, Sr., a calcium carbonate salesman and his artistically inclined wife, the former Dorothy Pennebaker, “Bud” Brando was one of three children. His oldest sister Jocelyn Brando was also an actress, taking after their mother, who engaged in amateur theatricals and mentored a then-unknown Henry Fonda, another Nebraska native, in her role as director of the Omaha Community Playhouse. Frannie, Brando’s other sibling, was a visual artist. Both Brando sisters contrived to leave the Midwest for New York City, Jocelyn to study acting and Frannie to study art. Marlon managed to escape the vocational doldrums forecast for him by his cold, distant father and his disapproving schoolteachers by striking out for The Big Apple in 1943, following Jocelyn into the acting profession. The acting was the only thing he was good at, for which he received praise.  So he was determined to make it his career – a high-school dropout, he had nothing else to fall back on, having been rejected by the military due to a knee injury he incurred playing football at Shattuck Military Academy, Brando Sr.’s alma mater. The school booted Marlon out as incorrigible before graduation.   – Wikipedia

 

Eva Marie Saint: At 89, ‘You Have More To Give.’

NPR’s Scott Simon talks with the 89-year-old movie legend in the link below.  In honor of its 60th anniversary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will screen On the Waterfront on June 6, 2014, in Los Angeles. The notion of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) began with Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). He wanted to create an organization that would mediate labor disputes and improves the industry’s image. So, on a Sunday evening, Mayer and three other studio bigwigs – actor Conrad Nagel, director Fred Niblo, and the head of the Association of Motion Picture Producers, Fred Beetson – sat down and discussed these matters. The idea of this elite club having an annual banquet was tossed around, but there was no mention of awards just yet. They also established that membership into the organization would only be open to people involved in one of the five branches of the industry: actors, directors, writers, technicians, and producers.  (Formation May 11, 1927)

May 24, 2014

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

EVA MARIE SAINT

She played two of the most famous female leads in movie history. Born in New Jersey July 4, 1924, Eva Marie Saint graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1946 and spent the first seven years of her acting career working in the Golden Age of television. She made the leap to the big screen in 1954 with an Oscar-winning performance as Edie Doyle in Elia Kazan‘s masterpiece On the Waterfront (1954). She certainly brought “real acting” to a time when melodrama still ran rampant in the industry. Who can forget her memorable argument scene with Marlon Brando when she says, “I didn’t say I don’t love you, I said I want you to get out”? Five years later, she starred as Eve Kendell, the sultry spy in Alfred Hitchcock‘s North by Northwest (1959) opposite Cary Grant. The change in her screen persona, coupled with her adroit performance as a seductive woman of mystery who keeps Grant (and the audience) off-balance, was widely heralded. A suspense classic, “North by Northwest” is now considered one of the greatest films ever made. Eva Marie also received Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for A Hatful of Rain (1957) and won an Emmy Award for the miniseries People Like Us(1990). As of late, she has been seen in the family film Because of Winn-Dixie (2005) and the action adventure Superman Returns (2006), where she played Martha Kent. Eva Marie Saint is still going strong with her work and takes the fact that she’s part of film history in her stride.

Eva got the part of Edie Doyle in On the Waterfront (1954) over Elizabeth Montgomery. Director Elia Kazan, in his autobiography “A Life,” says that the choice of an actress to play the part was narrowed down to Montgomery and Saint, but there were also some qualms about Saint playing a teenager since she was 30 years old at the time. Although Montgomery was excellent in her screen test, there was an air of finishing school about her. Kazan thought this genteel quality would not be becoming for Edie, who was raised on the waterfront in Hoboken, New Jersey. He gave the part to Saint, and she went on to win cinematic immortality, and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, in part.  – Wikipedia

The film On the Waterfront is just as powerful and influential today as it was in 1954 because it speaks to our current political and criminal situation.  From large corporate organizations to government agencies, the common man is sick of the corruption.  He is examining his conscience and finding no other way but exposing the criminal actions.

page1-440px-Whistleblowing.pdf

whistleblower (whistle-blower or whistle blower) is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organization. The alleged misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of law, rule, regulation and a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health and safety violations, and corruption. Whistleblowers may make their allegations internally (for example, to other people within the accused organization) or externally (to regulators, law enforcement agencies, to the media or groups concerned with the issues).

The Continental Congress enacted the first whistleblower protection law in the United States on July 30, 1778, by a unanimous vote.  The Continental Congress was moved to act after an incident in 1777 when Richard Marven and Samuel Shaw blew the whistle and suffered severe retaliation by Esek Hopkins, the commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy. Congress declared that the United States would defend the two whistleblowers against a libel suit filed against them by Hopkins. The Continental Congress also declared it the duty of “all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other the inhabitants thereof” to inform the Continental Congress or proper authorities of “misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge.”  – Wikipedia

Conscience is an aptitudefacultyintuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong. Moral judgment may derive from values or norms (principles and rules). In psychological terms, conscience is often described as leading to feelings of remorse when a human commits actions that go against his/her moral values and to feelings of rectitude or integrity when actions conform to such norms. The extent to which conscience informs moral judgment before an action and whether such moral judgments are or should base on reason has occasioned debate through much of the history of Western philosophy.- Wikipedia

This Western philosophy is eloquently expressed in On the Waterfront.  We may discover the deeper aspects of this powerful film when reviewing the relevant points found in Cicero’s Teaching on Natural Law by Thomas G. West.   (St. John’s Review, Summer 1981. Vol. 32)

We are in the midst of a crisis – not always evident in the comfortable lives we lead, but a crisis nonetheless.  A sign of the crisis is the ongoing political collapse of the West; the liberal democracies of America and Europe are barely willing to defend themselves against the insolence of petty tyrants and the armed imperialism of the Soviet Union. Why this somnolent slide into voluntary weakness? Because we are not convinced that we have anything to fight for. We are ready to believe the worst of ourselves, and the best of our adversaries, because we no longer fully believe that we deserve to survive.  That is because we no longer know what the West is, and why its preservation matters for nurturing and sustaining the noblest and best of human activities.  In particular, we in America no longer know why the United States is the best hope for the modern world.

cicero

“Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul and constitutionalist. His works rank among the most influential in European culture, and today still constitute one of the most important bodies of primary material for the writing and revision of Roman history.”  -Wikipedia

Why is this important?

Cicero, or rather Roman philosophy generally, represents for Heidegger an important stage in the gradual forgetting of the Greek discovery of nature, a forgetting process which has marked the whole history of the West.  According to Heidegger, the very translation of Greek philosophy into Latin effaced that insight.  Roman philosophy conceived natura, the nature of things, as present-at-hand and readily available to easy philosophic contemplation and the formulation of ethical doctrines.  It thereby failed to renew the vibrant amplitude of the Greek physis, which embraces the emergence and coming-to-be of things no less than their distinct standing-forth in full presence before the mind’s eye. The Roman narrowing of nature therefore prepared the way for the modern view of beings as mere disposable resources, easily accessible to human projects and manipulation.

…By tremendous efforts Greek philosophy had achieved its insight into the distinction between and yet necessary belonging-together of nature and convention, being and appearance, truth and opinion, an insight anticipated in the dark lyrics of the pre-Socratic thinkers and given its consummate expression in the works of Plato and Aristotle. But now, in the moribund Roman republic, this grasp upon the tense unity of nature and convention was forgotten by politicians unformed by philosophy and philosophers disdainful of politics.   …Cicero strove to reyoke the sundered pair.

Poetry and law (law taken in a wide sense, like the Greek nomos, to include custom and tradition) appear immortalize the transient or even to bring non-being into being by touching our minds and memories through words.  If philosophy, which strives uncompromisingly to unveil the true nature of things, is the antithesis of poetry, it would likewise seem to be the enemy of the traditions and beliefs on which law depends and which in some measure law is.  The beginning of Cicero’s laws unobtrusively questions whether law contains any truth whatever. Law, like poetry, may be nothing more than a fiction that furnishes pleasure by establishing trust in eternally binding precepts and practices.  Cicero forestalls this positivist inference by drawing a distinction between two senses of the word law: the popular sense, according to which law is “that which sanctions in writing whatever it wishes, either by commanding or prohibiting,” and the more learned sense, derived from nature itself, according to which law is “the mind and reason of the prudent man.”    

…Law is natural in the same way that reason is natural, as a gift of nature bestowed on every human being.  But only in the prudent man, whose reason is developed as far as it can be, does reason become “correct,” and so only his commands and prohibitions are truly “law.”  …Even if complete knowledge of good is unavailable, as Cicero’s skeptism implies, we may infer that an approximation to wisdom is accessible through the assiduous exercise of understanding. Cicero’s final peroration to Book I paints a picture of perfect wisdom that can be a standard, even if unattained, of human striving.  Self-knowledge is the key.  For once we learn that we are equipped by nature for acquiring wisdom, and we sense that the mind, as sort of image of the gods, is worthy of care and cultivation.

I know you feel these are the worst of times…

 

Rumor has it… its the end of paradise.

Today’s headlines read… corruption, fraud, greed …and of whistle blowers around the world coming forward to expose the corruption within corporations as well as governments.  Doom and gloom are the buzz word of our day! There is much to learn from the classics.  Eva Marie Saint said it well, “You have more to give!”

Terry (Marlon Brando) as well as Elia Kazan (Director) learns exactly what they are capable of doing through the process of self-knowledge.  Both the common man and the man of status or wealth are enticed by the “Roman Philosophy.”  And both must examine himself to make a reasonable decision on how to act as demonstrated by this film and the filmmaker.

 

Symphonic Suite – On the Waterfront

Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 — October 14, 1990) was an American conductor, composer, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim. According to The New York Times, he was “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.”

I highly recommend all serious screenwriters study this film.  I’ll be studying this masterpiece as I re-write Peace Lily.  

– 3rd Dog aka Betsy Banfield-Malone

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The Brand StoryHome

…is in honor and memory of Tessa, my small Maltese born October 6, 1993, and passed away September 18, 2009.

I was considered the 3rd dog in Tessa’s pack. Her first master was the first dog, Tessa was the second dog, and I was the third dog. No matter what I’d do to gain respect or position in Tessa’s eyes… I was “ the third dog.” She was so adorable and such a character. I caved to her demands…and she was very demanding…which brought me joy and contentment. Her demands were begging for food and sitting on my lap.

Tessa had a few quirky personality traits based on her past…growing up in a less than ideal environment thrown into the backyard with two Dobermans to fend for herself. She was about 3 pounds at that time the runt and a spitfire. Not far from being a replica of me….she made me smile with joy at her attitude.

Quite the problem solver

She also liked mischief and got herself into some severe problems. Like the time she discovered chocolate candy on the coffee table and laid in wait for her moment to snatch the candy bars run upstairs and hide them under the bed until nightfall. In the middle of the night, I awoke to a banging noise. It was Tessa banging her water bowl against the metal stairs to get my attention. I soon discovered several empty candy wrappers, piles of vomit everywhere, and Tessa hitting the bowl. It is unbelievable that she survived that terrible episode eating more candy bars than I could… at one time!

Filled with inspiration

She will always be my inspiration and a reminder of perfection.

As I emerged in the second half of my journey as a storyteller, launched myself into the world of screenwriting, and left behind an entirely different phase of my life, I also had to let go of my friend…my companion my little spitfire Tessa.

I will forever be the 3rd dog.