On The Waterfront

Not as good as its reputation would suggest, this Elia Kazan-directed 1954 melodrama about union corruption on the New York docks gets pretty pretentious in spotsand Leonard Bernstein’s tortured score doesn’t help. But it’s hard to deny that Marlon Brando’s performance as a dock worker and ex-fighter who finally decides to rat on his gangster brother (Rod Steiger) is pretty terrific. Budd Schulberg’s script has flavor and bite, and Boris Kaufman’s crisp black-and-white cinematography in Hoboken and environs is fairly strong as well. The main problem is that Kazan and Schulberg use waterfront corruption partially as a pretext for a more personal storytheir own ostracism by their colleagues after they agreed to cooperate with the House Un-American Activities Committee in the early 50s and supply the names of former communists. Considering the content, making Brando into a Christlike martyr who suffers for informing on his coworkers seems a bit self-serving, but Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden, and Lee J. Cobb are all as good as they’ve ever been. 108 min. (JR)

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