BFI Classics: On The Waterfront

Author: Leo Braudy

Did you know that during the most famous scene in On the Waterfront (1954), the taxi scene where Brando declares that he ‘coulda been a contender’, Rod Steiger was mostly alone and talking to himself, because Brando would leave the set every day at 4.00 to visit his psychiatrist? Or that the stevedores bar was a real bar where the extras were the regulars? Or that “the park” where Terry hands Edie her glove was actually several parks edited together?

All this and more is packed into Leo Braudy’s loving, near-obsessive, paean to the film that has obviously become his burning passion. Literary geeks will love his exploration of symbolism and character, film geeks will love all the behind-the-scenes anecdotes, political geeks will love the parallels between the film’s plot and the 1950s Communist witch hunts that director Elia Kazan is so indelibly tied to, gender studies geeks will love the exploration of the themes of post-War masculinity, and Brando fans will love the photo of Mr Method on set with his parents. Forgive me for saying this, but I can’t resist: this book is absolutely a contender, and it really does have class. A corker.

Clare Moody

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