We gave it an A
Everybody knows one scene: Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger sitting close in the back of a taxicab, doing a mournful number about lost love. Steiger’s Charley, in with the racketeers who control the Hoboken docks, is charged with keeping his brother from testifying against them. Brando’s Terry — the ex-boxer who coulda been a contender if Charley hadn’t convinced him to throw his fights — is weary and beginning to think it’s time to stand up for something. Even after half a century of homages and parodies and travesties, this virtuosic bit still gives off sparks. And yet it shouldn’t overshadow the countless felicities of Elia Kazan’s Oscar winner: Leonard Bernstein’s leaping score, Budd Schulberg’s compact script, shots that make the audience shiver with the bitter harbor wind, Eva Marie Saint’s perilous fragility….”On the Waterfront” is the fruit of Kazan’s desire to justify himself (that is, his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee) to Hollywood and the world — an arguable proposition with an inarguably affecting payoff.