The critically acclaimed movie “On the Waterfront” was released on this day in history, July 28, 1954 — presenting a powerful account of union corruption.
The film featured one of Marlon Brando’s most memorable performances, according to Britannica.com.
The film received critical praise and industry accolades for its acting, directing and moviemaking.
“‘On the Waterfront’ is moviemaking of a rare and high order,” said A.J. Weiler, a movie critic at The New York Times in a review published on July 29, 1954.
Marlon Brando played the tough prizefighter-turned-longshoreman Terry Malloy in a raggedly emotional tale of individual failure and social corruption, said The Criterion Channel, an independent streaming service featuring classic and contemporary films from Hollywood and around the world.
The film delves into Malloy’s moral crisis.
He must decide whether to remain loyal to the mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) and Johnny’s right-hand man, Terry’s brother, Charley (Rod Steiger), as the authorities close in on them, the same source recounted.
The movie went on to win eight Oscars, including for best picture, director, actor, supporting actress (Eva Marie Saint) and screenplay.
One of the most iconic quotes in the movie is when Brando’s character Terry blames Charlie, his brother, for his current situation.
“You don’t understand!” he says. “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”
Elia Kazan directed “On the Waterfront.”
The film’s grittiness and emotion are captured by Kazan’s exceptional direction.
“The scene in the car with Terry and Charlie is one of the most famous movie scenes of the 20th century,” says The City University of New York.
“The close-up camera angles capture Terry and Charlie’s expressions, while the sad music adds to the heart-wrenching emotion of the scene.”
Screenwriter Budd Schulberg based his story and screenplay on Malcolm Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles on longshoremen and union corruption, “Crime on the Waterfront.”
The series ran from November 1948 to December 1948 in The New York Sun, according to The American Film Institute.
Also, Schulberg conducted additional research on New York and New Jersey waterfronts with longshoremen.
He also attended the New York Waterfront Crime Hearings, which were the basis for the script’s climax, the same source indicated.
“On the Waterfront” was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1989, Britannica.com indicated.