On the Waterfront
A film by Elia Kazan
20th May 2012;5.45 pm
Perks mini Theater
The recipient of eight Oscars (including Best Picture), On the Waterfront represented a defining moment in the careers to two key participants: actor Marlon Brando and director Elia Kazan. A gritty, uncompromising look at union corruption on the docks of Hoboken, New Jersey, the film is loosely based on real-life events, and, even though the specific politics of the era no longer possess the immediacy they once had, they still carry weight within the context of the movie, which was one of the best acted efforts to come out of Hollywood during the 1950s.
In many ways, the United States was formed on the backs of manual laborers (whether on assembly lines, in steel mills, in coal mines, or elsewhere), and few would deny the importance of the early unions to the welfare of the American worker. In the 1950s, unions were a vital force that permeated nearly every aspect of American industry, and, as with every repository of influence, the potential for graft was great. On the Waterfront takes a long, hard look at one such situation - and the impact it has upon the lives of those who don't play by the rules. Over the years, many critics have praised On the Waterfront for having what has been called a nearly perfect screenplay.
This was the film made in 1954 by Elia Kazan after he agreed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, named former associates who were involved with the Communist Party . On the Waterfront unavoidably evokes the director's potent mixture of guilt and self-justification. It is left for the viewer to determine whether his justification is acceptable.
Despite all this, the fact remains that it is a powerful film and fantastic piece of pure cinema. Brando's performance is perhaps the most influential in film history.
Marlon Brando's Terry Malloy is a shatteringly poignant portrait of an amoral, confused, illiterate citizen of the lower depths who is goaded into decency by love, hate and murder. His groping for words, use of the vernacular, care of his beloved pigeons, pugilist's walk and gestures and his discoveries of love and the immensity of the crimes surrounding him are highlights of a beautiful and moving portrayal.
Elia Kazan, (September 7, 1909 – September 28, 2003), was an award-winning film and theatre director, film and theatrical producer, screenwriter, novelist and co-founder of the influential Actors Studio in New York in 1947. Kazan was a three-time Academy Award winner, a five-time Tony Award winner, a four-time Golden Globes winner, as well as a recipient of numerous awards and nominations in other prestigious festivals as the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival.
Kazan was born Elias Kazanjoglou in the Anatolian city of the Ottoman Empire, Kayseri,( Turkey) to a Greek family.His family emigrated to the United States in 1913 and settled in New York City.
A highly successful stage director and a co-founder of "The Actors Studio" in New York, Elia Kazan brought his psychological and emotional philosophy of stage performance to Hollywood in 1945 and sparked a radical redefinition of screen acting during the 1950s while at the same time producing socially conscious films which challenged societal norms and addressed such controversial topics as anti-Semitism, racism, alcoholism, public corruption and the cult of celebrity. Further marked by compelling personal stories, Kazan's films also showcased career-defining performances by such 1950s film icons as Marlon Brando, James Dean and Natalie Wood.
In 1983 Kazan was honoured for his Life Achievement in a Kennedy Center ceremony. When he received in 1999 the Honorary Oscar, Warren Beatty rose and applauded and Nick Nolte remained seated stony-faced. Kazan's films have earned 22 Academy Awards and 62 nominations, including two Directing Oscars. He was married three times; all his wifes were blondes. "Being Greek, blondness is my fetish," Kazan wrote in The Arrangement. In 1932 he married Moly Day Thatcher, a playwright; they had four children. She died in 1963. Barbara Loden, an actress, writer and director, whom he married in 1967, died in 1980. From 1982 Kazan was married to Frances Rudge. Elia Kazan died on September 28, 2003, at his home in Manhattan.