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On The Waterfront

The West Orange Arts Council has been sponsoring a small Film Festival this month, and so tonight E., daughter C., her friend H. and I all headed over to the Essex Green Cinema to see this great classic.

What’s left to say about it after all these years? Well, it was terrific to see it on a big screen. It’s nice that they live on as DVDs and PPVs, and watching it on a small screen on the far side of the room is … acceptable. But the theatrical presentation just has more impact. So thanks to WOAC for putting this on.

Marlon Brando was, of course, all kinds of awesome in this. Not just the famous scene in the back of the taxi, but little things throughout. Contrast this with Lee J. Cobb’s performance. Cobb is a force of nature, blowing through scene after scene with volcanic intensity. You’d think he’d steal the show, but yet while Cobb is literally throwing guys across the room Brando is making subtle gestures with his hands and it somehow balances out. Check him out playing with Edie’s glove when he’s first talking to her in the park. I can only imagine them on the set thinking, “what the heck is he doing with that glove,” but really how could it be otherwise?

In between are Karl Malden’s priest and Rod Steiger’s Charlie, both roles with a wide range and played beautifully and fully by both. Eva Marie Saint also makes her film debut as Edie Doyle.

IMDB‘s entry lists the full cast, and it’s a pretty interesting group. Fred Gwynne, Martin Balsam, and Pat Hingle (who just passed away last month).

At the time the movie carried a lot of political baggage which is far too complex to even begin to unpack at this late date. But no matter, the story and the characters say it all. There may be better movies out there than this, but not very many and they’re not better by very much. Five stars, with a bullet. The Oscar for Best Actor Evah goes to Brando.

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