Making the Grades
Down on the murky waterfront, steady work for the longshoremen ebbs and flows according to union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee Cobb) and his motley litter of well-heeled thugs. Talk too much, step out of line, or break the unwritten code and you may not see tomorrow's sunrise.
After confiding in two crime investigators, Joey Doyle, a decent bloke, is unceremoniously pushed from an apartment building roof leaving his sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) determined to find out who did her brother in. On the dock she meets Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), a has-been boxer turned bird coop keeper, befriended during his orphaned childhood by the corrupt Johnny who took him to ball games, directed his fighting career, and won his allegiance. When Edie's single-minded resolve begins to make Terry question the senseless deaths on the dock, Johnny becomes uneasy and puts pressure on the young man to conform to the rules of the game. But the more Terry understands the mob's mandate, the less he wants to be part of their plans, realizing that he is being played for a pigeon.
Cowed by the labor union that should be helping them, even the maltreated dockworkers fear siding with Terry against the deathblows of the racketeers. But the only way to bring change to the beleaguered Irish borough and regain his self-respect may require Terry to turn his back on Johnny and his cohorts.
Filmed in black and white, this 1954 story of organized crime On the Waterfront was inspired by a series of Pulitzer prize-winning articles published in the New York Sun. The film won numerous Academy Awards including Best Director, Best Male Actor for the young Marlon Brando and a Best Supporting Actress for the debuting Eva Marie Saint.
This gripping story of personal atonement and redemption includes plentiful scenes of mob violence unsuitable for preteens but the innovative filming techniques and a strong storyline of taking corruption head on, provide this film with a powerful punch that makes it a classic contender for teenage viewing.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about On The Waterfront.
Throughout the movie, Joey’s plaid jacket is passed from person to person. Who wears the jacket and what happens to each of them? What do you think the jacket represents?
When Joey is killed, Edie accuses the parish priest Father Barry of hiding in the church. How does he react to her comment and what does he do to help the people of his parish fight the union leaders?
For more interesting questions and information about On the Waterfront, check out www.teachwithmovies.org/guides/on-the-waterfront.html