On the Waterfront

“You don’t understand! I could’a had class. I could’a been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”

  • Title: On the Waterfront
  • Director: Elia Kazan
  • Release date: 28th July 1954

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

After collaborating with my dad on one of my previous posts (Welcome to the Movies) I realised that there was only one film which I had yet to see from his list of favourite movies lines. And this film was… On the Waterfront.

So, I thought to myself, maybe it’s time to finally give this film a go.

Brando’s performance in the film is critically acclaimed as being the “watershed moment in the history of movies”, so, it must be good.


With a love for creating films based upon social realism, Elia Kazan created the Hollywood classic that goes by the name of On the Waterfront. Through the eyes of the main protagonist, Terry Malloy (played by no other than the star of method acting, Marlon Brando) we are told the story of the union corruption which was occurring in New York in the 1970s. After mob union leader Johnny Friendly bumps off well-known dockworker Joey, his sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) and “waterfront priest” Father Barry (Karl Malden) work together in an attempt to expose Joey’s killer and bring down the mob. In the midst of this, Terry (brother of Johnny Friendly’s right-hand man) embarks upon an unforeseen relationship with Edie which leads to far more than he could have ever expected.

Besides the fact that this film was created by none other than one of Hollywood’s most successful directors, includes a multitude of Hollywood greats and was conceived in the golden era. What makes this film so admirable in my eyes is nothing other than Marlon Brando’s eyebrow.

Yes, you did hear me right.

I said Marlon Brando’s eyebrow.

As we all know, Marlon Brando is considered one of the greatest method actors in history (don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about De Niro). Becoming a method actor is far from easy. From gaining 50 pounds for one role to dying your hair bright pink for another, it takes a very skilled type of actor to truly embody the character that they are playing in such a way. We’ve seen Brando do it from Sayonara (1957) to The Godfather (1972).

But, On the Waterfront.

Now that was something special.

Who knew slitting your eyebrow and putting on an accent could create such as effect?

From the moment the film started I was captivated by Brando. For hours after the film has finished, I sat pondering what it was that drew all my attention to him. It was then that I realised it was nothing other than the slit eyebrow. Don’t get me wrong the other actors gave stellar performances, and the eight Academy Awards the film received reflect this, but there was just something that made Brando’s performance that much better than the rest. And that slit eyebrow was it!

Now, in case any of you missed it, below I thought I would include that famous scene that my dad loved so much that he decided to put it at number 5 in his list of his favourite movie lines. And if you haven’t seen the film, this gives you a chance to see Brando in action in one of his greatest performances to date.


5 thoughts on “On the Waterfront”

  1. It’s funny it was my old man who introduced me to On the Waterfront and I’m glad he did. Brando is a force of nature and “I coulda been a contender” is one of my favourite movie scenes ever. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

    Liked by 1 person

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