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Plot, Details & Awards

On The Waterfront

Not Rated In Theaters 07/28/1954 , 107min.
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Plot & Details

This classic story of Mob informers was based on a number of true stories and filmed on location in and around the docks of New York and New Jersey. Mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) rules the waterfront with an iron fist. The police know that he's been responsible for a number of murders, but witnesses play deaf and dumb ("plead D & D"). Washed-up boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) has had an errand-boy job because of the influence of his brother Charley, a crooked union lawyer (Rod Steiger). Witnessing one of Friendly's rub-outs, Terry is willing to keep his mouth shut until he meets the dead dockworker's sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint). "Waterfront priest" Father Barry (Karl Malden) tells Terry that Edie's brother was killed because he was going to testify against boss Friendly before the crime commission. Because he could have intervened, but didn't, Terry feels somewhat responsible for the death. When Father Barry receives a beating from Friendly's goons, Terry is persuaded to cooperate with the commission. Featuring Brando's famous "I coulda been a contendah" speech, On the Waterfront has often been seen as an allegory of "naming names" against suspected Communists during the anti-Communist investigations of the 1950s. Director Elia Kazan famously informed on suspected Communists before a government committee -- unlike many of his colleagues, some of whom went to prison for refusing to "name names" and many more of whom were blacklisted from working in the film industry for many years to come -- and Budd Schulberg's screenplay has often been read as an elaborate defense of the informer's position. On the Waterfront won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Brando, and Best Supporting Actress for Saint.

Awards

Academy Awards

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Editing Gene Milford Won
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Supporting Actor Rod Steiger Nominated
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Black and White Art Direction Richard Day Won
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Director Elia Kazan Won
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Picture Sam Spiegel Won
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Drama or Comedy Score Leonard Bernstein Nominated
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Actor Marlon Brando Won
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Supporting Actor Lee J. Cobb Nominated
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Story and Screenplay Budd Schulberg Won
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Black and White Cinematography Boris Kaufman Won
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Supporting Actress Eva Marie Saint Won
1954 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Supporting Actor Karl Malden Nominated

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1954 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best British Film Elia Kazan Nominated
1954 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Foreign Actor Marlon Brando Won

Golden Globes

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1954 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Cinematography - Black and White Boris Kaufman Won
1954 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Director Elia Kazan Won
1954 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Marlon Brando Won
1954 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Picture - Drama Won

American Film Institute

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1998 American Film Institute 100 Greatest American Movies Won

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1954 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best British Film Elia Kazan Nominated
1954 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Foreign Actor Marlon Brando Won

Directors Guild of America

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1954 Directors Guild of America Best Director Elia Kazan Won

Library of Congress

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1988 Library of Congress U.S. National Film Registry Won

National Board of Review

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1954 National Board of Review Best Picture Won

New York Film Critics Circle

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1954 New York Film Critics Circle Best Picture Won
1954 New York Film Critics Circle Best Actor Marlon Brando Won
1954 New York Film Critics Circle Best Director Elia Kazan Won
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