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On the Waterfront

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: On the Waterfront

Starring: Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint
Director: Elia Kazan
Rated: NR
RunTime: 107 Minutes
Release Date: July 1954
Genres: Classic, Drama

*Also starring: Rudy Bond, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Leif Erickson, Pat Henning, Tony Galento, John Hamilton

Review by Brian Koller
3½ stars out of 4

"On The Waterfront" is a classic film that nearly measures up to its reputation. While the characters are too neatly divided into good and evil, and the drama is sometimes overdone, there's never a dull moment, and the cast and cinematography is excellent.

Marlon Brando stars as a dense washed-up boxer who works on the waterfront as a flunkie for corrupt union boss Lee J. Cobb. Brando's older brother, Rod Steiger, is Cobb's attorney. Cobb has a policy of murdering workers who inform. Brando unwittingly assists in a union-ordered murder, and gets a subpoena to testify against Cobb. Aggressive priest Karl Malden and goody two-shoe new girlfriend Eva Marie Saint want him to testify. Cobb tells Steiger that Brando had better not, or else.

"On The Waterfront" is most famous for Brando's performance, especially the scene where he tells Steiger that "I coulda been a contender, I coulda been somebody." Brando is fine, but almost anyone could have played the palooka. Malden is a bit hammy, but his energy is still welcome. Cobb is excellent as the menacing union boss.

Academy Awards and nominations were showered on the cast and crew of "On The Waterfront". The film won Best Picture, Best Writing, Best Actor (Brando), Best Director (Elia Kazan), Best Cinematography and Best Art Direction (sets). Eva Marie Saint won Best Supporting Actress, while Malden, Cobb and Steiger had to settle for Best Supporting Actor nominations.

It was Marie Saint's first feature film, although she was already a veteran television performer. She is proof that a great production contributes more to receiving an Oscar than one's performance.

Kazan and Malden must have worked well together, since Malden had a starring role in four of Kazan's films.

Copyright 1999 Brian Koller

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