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'On the Waterfront' (1954) Film Review

Updated: Jan 27, 2022

Directed by: Elia Kazan.

This crime drama has everything – a reluctant hero played by young Marlon Brando with iconic scenes and lines, a moral argument against silencing testimony, and implications of the behind the scenes drama between the greatest filmmakers and writers of the day and a government gone fascist.

So if you mugs know what's good for you, you'll go back and take a look at this piece of cinema history. For those who can't remember their testimony: Terry Malloy had ambitions as a prizefighter, but that was years ago and now he works as a Hoboken longshoremen for a union boss with mob connections. When his conscience tells him to avenge the deaths of his coworkers, the local priest convinces Terry to testify instead of fight.

Terry is at first ostracized, but ends up the hero of the day. The first draft of the screenplay was by Arthur Miller, but after Kazan's appearance before the House Unamerican Activities Committee where he named Miller as a Communist, Miller left the project. Big Surprise. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning article series “Crime on the Waterfront,” the story as told in the movie was also considered Kazan's response to how he was treated after testifying before the HUAC.

Audiences were just as receptive as critics, then and now. Made for roughly $900k, the movie grossed more than $9m in the U.S.

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