On the Waterfront (1954) Review

Terry Malloy an ex-prize fighter could have been someone but now turned longshoreman (docker) hits struggles as he attempts to stand up to the corrupt union bosses.


On the Waterfront won an incredible 8 Oscars out of the 12 it was nominated for including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Marlon Brando as well as Eve Marie Saint picking up Actress in a Supporting Role. Something that truly shocked me when checking this information was that Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger were all nominated for Actor in a Supporting Role with none of them picking up the award, the only reason I feel is behind this that they couldn’t actually decide between them?

That is where I want to start with this review, the truly outstanding acting which is on another level. I could easily see just why this won best picture in 1955 and to be quite honest so many moments within the story are still relevant now in 2020. That is something that fascinates me with old films and that we never really seem to learn lessons within life or work and the same issues occur over and over again. History deemed to repeat itself throughout the decades and time.

“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley”

A very iconic speech and moment, I had seen that scene before but to eventually have it as part of the film and full context of the story is even more powerful than I actually realised. Probably the Oscar confirming moment as well.

Work on the docks was not pleasant at all and when the unions were fully corrupt that made it even worse for the men who were attempting to make money to basically survive. Johnny Friendly is pleased with how he has control of the waterfront despite the police knowing that he is behind a number of murders but witnesses suddenly become deaf and dumb about what happened not wanting to risk the danger and shame of informing. Terry Malloy becomes involved in this and is somewhat responsible for the death of Joey Doyle. His sister Edie is naturally very angry about his death and shames waterfront priest Father Barry.

Terry struggles with his morals and budding relationship with Edie. He wants to testify but then his own life is at risk. This certainly creates a huge tension even more so as Charley is close in with Friendly. It really does manage to be so engaging and the final scene is rather brutal and inspirational all at the same time.

Karl Malden blew me away as Father Barry, I mean that is high praise as I thought all of the performances were fantastic from start to finish. But Malden was on another level and scene stealing each time he appeared, I felt as though that was a way to highlight his truly outstanding role. Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger were also given scene stealing moments as well. With Marlon Brando not disappointing and leading them all in terrific fashion. All coming together to create an amazing atmosphere. Eva Marie Saint was the only female in the film and certainly had some outstanding moments as well, in what was her film debut having previously been in TV shows. Not a bad debut finishing off with an Oscar.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.