Released 1954 (Japan, a month before its U.S. release)
American, in English
Director – Elia Kazan (who also directed Gentleman’s Agreement)
Stars – Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint
A story of corruption and murder amongst a dockworker’s union in NYC. Brando stars as conflicted stooge Terry Malloy; Malden as the local priest Father Barry, who’s trying to get the men to do the right thing; Cobb as union boss Johnny Friendly; and Saint as Edie Doyle, a woman trying to solve the murder of her brother Joey, who was silenced for trying to speak out against union corruption.
If you’re a regular reader of my reviews, then you’ll know I’m a little sensitive to how “romance” is treated in movies. There’s a forcible kiss in this one, which, ugh, come on.
Towards the end, Edie says some stuff that’s inconsistent with her character. I was a little unclear on whether it was intentional, to show how the events of the movie and her budding love for Terry have changed her, or whether it was bad writing. If it’s the former, it’s brilliant. If it's the latter, then it bothers me. I’m going to go with intentional(?).
During the big fight scene at the end, it’s laughably obvious that it’s not Brando fighting.
Honestly, there isn’t much to dislike here. Consider the above to be minor nitpicks. The writing, especially the dialogue, is generally fantastic. So is the directing. The story is both interesting & engaging. I thought the ending scene was superb. Hands down, though, the best thing about this movie is the acting. There are a lot of great performances. I enjoyed Brando, of course. This was the kind of performance that made him famous. Even better, in my opinion, was Malden. I was very disappointed to discover that he didn’t earn an Oscar for this role.
My two favorite scenes:
Terry and Edie walking through the park together. Edie drops her glove. Terry picks it up, brushes it off, and then begins to play with it, eventually putting it on. I think this scene is incredibly sweet and subtly gives viewers a glimpse into the true heart of Terry.
Terry and his brother Charley (Rod Steiger) in the cab. Charley has betrayed Terry. The look on Terry’s face as he says, “Oh, Charley. Oh, Charley.” Man, that’s a punch to the gut. The lines that follow are the most famous lines of the movie.
I’ve seen only two of the 1950s winners before. This is one of them. However, I hadn’t seen it in about 17 years or so. I was genuinely worried that it wasn’t going to stand the test of time, that I wouldn’t like it this time around. I’m so glad that my worries were unfounded.
This is one of those “it’s a classic for a reason” movies. It’s simply a phenomenal piece of filmmaking. You should definitely see it.
I give this movie 4.75 stars.