This film might rate the rare fifth star because it comes about as close to a perfect film as one gets. The screenplay, direction, cinematography and most certainly the performances are all top flight. A melodrama yes but one that perfectly captures not only a certain time and place but the struggles of a strata of america that are too rarely portrayed so honestly.
Elia Kazan was a rat & betrayed his friends to HUAC, ruining people's lives & careers in the service of his own. I'm unsure what I'd have done in his shoes but this film is dishonest & right-wing to the core; it is anti-union, Ayn Randian, and pro-christian propaganda. It maybe well-shot and well-acted, Brando gives a great performance, but I can't abide this film. It's the snide, self-righteous assertion of a snitch
3-4. A functional, minimal script (with some snappy dialogue) that translated excellently to film, 'On The Waterfront' reminds me a bit of 'Rebel Without A Cause' in that it kinda has the feeling of being a well-made PSA, only in this case it's about what it takes to be a good American (and a good Christian). The central romance has some rough spots (the apartment kiss), but almost every piece serves its part well.
Kazan's politics aside, On the Waterfront is a bonafide classic & an influential precursor to New Hollywood. Brando leads the line superbly as the tough but tender Malloy. His support cast aren't to be overlooked with Lee J. Cobb particularly bullish as the villain. Schulberg's script is obviously brilliant (I coulda been a contender!), but it's the backdrop of a real New York that adds a layer of vital authenticity.
Eva Marie Saint is an underrated actress here; considering Brando's fame and talent it's easy to see why people say they'll remember him from this film. But her portrayal was equally fiery, emotional and even when calm, her character was brave. Everyone in this film acted wonderfully though. Right down to the only time I've really been happy to hear the words, "All right! Let's get to work!"
_ There's one thing we've got in this country and that's ways of fightin' back. Gettin' the facts to the public. Testifyin' for what you know is right against what you know is wrong. Now what's ratting to them is telling the truth for you. Now can't you see that?