Troy Patterson
November 02, 2001 AT 05:00 AM EST

On the Waterfront

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
runtime
108 minutes
performer
Marlon Brando, Martin Balsam, Lee J. Cobb, John Hamilton, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint, Rod Steiger
director
Elia Kazan
distributor
Columbia Pictures
author
Malcolm Johnson, Budd Schulberg
genre
Mystery and Thriller, Drama

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.

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