Essay about English: On the Waterfront and Terry

Submitted By c-rawr
Words: 4991
Pages: 20

On The Waterfront

Apologia – for Elia Kazan’s naming of names in the House On Un-American Activities Committees
Directed by Elia Kazan
Written by Budd Schulberg
Score composed by Leonard Bernstein
Cinematography by Boris Kaufman
Shot in Hoboken, New Jersey after 36 days in 1953
Received 8 Oscars at the 1955 Academy Awards ceremony, including Best Pictures
Film noir – black film – genre
Traditional melodrama
3 act structure (classic Hollywood narrative)
Act 1 – Joey’s murder/corruption on the waterfront
Act 2 – Terry’s growing understanding of what he must do
Act 3 – Terry goes down to get his right

Style of film
Kazan also used the style of the film to intensify sympathy for Terry and thus support his decision, strengthening the allegorical intentions of the film.

Context
Three inter-related circles of events
1. McCarthyism
2. Changing political economy of the American film industry
3. History of the New York waterfront

The contrast is struck between true Americanism and citizenship, on the one hand, and false Americanism and corruption on the other. Terry is presented as a man on a moral tightrope.

Corruption on the docks
Malcom Johnson – mob run unions & a waterfront plagued by stand-over tactics, loan sharking and entrenched corruption.
Corporate involvement in the corruption – hence “Mr Upstairs”

A critique on the American Dream
American Dream – founded on the notion that hard work could lead to success. It was America’s response to the more rigid class based society in England.
Film tells us that the ideals & reality are worlds apart
Note – the stark divide between those who desire for a “couple of extra potatoes” & those who keep “pennies” in a jar & those who in their “camel hair coats”, diamond rings & sporting cigars.
Michael J. Skelly transform into Johnny Friendly, but can only achieve the dream through corruption

An insight into the role of women
During WW2 – sense of empowerment – reflected in Edie’s initial appearance
Post WW2 – disempowerment as man returned to their traditional role
American Film Industry
1946 peak of cinema attendance
Decline attendance from 1946 to the late 1950’s
Studio attempts to re-engage audience

On the waterfront:
Social problems
Location shooting
Black and white, documentary style
Influenced by neo-realism
Authenticity

History of the New York Waterfront
Corruption – endemic
Violence
Loan-sharking
The “shape-up”
“Waterfront Priest”, Father John Corridan
Hearings televised in 1951
Waterfront Crime Communism established by New York governor in 1952

Neo-Realistic Film
Post WW2
Anti – Fascist (against the corrupt mobs)
Reflected ‘real lives’
Entirely or largely non-professional cast
On location shooting
Exploration of social problems
Highlights conditions of the economically disadvantaged

Author Budd Schulberg was taken back by the ‘shape-up.’ This degrading system thrived on nepotism and violence.
Eg. Terry with his lofty position and sites down reading his magazine

Music/sound/score
Film goes against the romanticised/harmonious music of its time
Film’s music is discordant, percussive, dishonest
On The Waterfront’s realistic subject matter, capture by moody black-and-white photography and a score with harsh jazz elements, places the film in an emergent realist genre of film making that was turning away from the light musicals and romantic comedies of 1930’s and 1940’s

Method Acting
Stanislarskiy – a Russian theatre and acting innovator, developed the theory
Actors would research the situation explored in a script according to their character’s motivations and experiences
Ideally, the actor would make his motivations identical to those in the script
Social Problems
Personal choices and concerns as reflections of wider concerns
Personal vs. collective responsibilities
Terry’s choice
“D ‘n’ D”, “I don’t know nothing”
Testify…