Guilt “On the Waterfront”
Rented “On the Waterfront” this weekend. I had seen part of it on TV years and years ago, and always meant to go back and see the whole thing.
It’s funny to see Brando so young. And Eve Saint Marie, she is so beautiful.
I thought the ideology behind the movie was very interesting. It was from the 50s, and it was set in a poor neighborhood. The men trying to work on the docks were “ethnic”, which was how things were in the 50s. They don’t seem SO long ago, but class differentiation was much more distinct then.
The 60s made a difference.
These men and their families talked about getting “food on the table.” One recurring motif is how a dead man’s jacket is given to someone else who needs it. Jackets, clothing, basic needs were not taken for granted.
They were poor and hard-working. They also had no prospects for anything better. Edie’s (played by Saint Marie) father tells her that he worked and slaved and saved so that she could get out of there. She had been sent to a convent to study. She was sheltered, but she had seen enough to be grateful for it.
The men kept complaining about unloading bananas.
Bananas, now, are the cheapest fruit in the store. Not so in the 50s. I doubt that the average dockworker ever had the opportunity to eat a banana.
They were struggling to get potatoes. It was hard.
But the point of the story was union corruption. That’s a tricky topic. Unions were created to stop corporate or “boss” corruption. But then, Unions became corrupt, and they began to exploit the workers. Almost like, where the bosses left off, the unions took up.
But it was hard to get unions going! They establishment of unions took a lot of work.
Also, I realized as I was watching it, Unions were considered socialist…Red..Communist! So how was this movie part of the whole McCarthy environment of the time?
Come to find out, the director Elia Kazan was brought before the House Unamerican Activities Committee. Twice. He Named Names on the second visit.
There were a lot of people that were blacklisted because of him. He didn’t feel too good about that.
The scene from the movie, where the priest stands over the dead body of the one man who had courage to name names about the corrupt union bosses springs to mind.
It was very preachy. The clergyman gave a very rousing sermon about what was right, and how you HAD to speak out to stop the bad guys. The laborers were throwing things at him, even, and he kept going.
He was SO righteous!
And all throughout the movie, the theme of informing and being a “stool pigeon” or a “canary” was repeated and repeated.
He even had real pigeons playing a prominent role.
One thing I noticed from the movie, too, was the lack of a real answer. Sure, they broke the back of the union boss. But what then? None of those guys were really capable of taking over. The viewer didn’t really have a sense that everything would be “happily ever after.”
You can see how Kazan had re-cast his own story, making himself a hero informant, making the world safe against unscrupulous bosses. I’m sure it scratched a sore itch for him, making this kind of movie.
But it didn’t really show any answers. Right then, I don’t think people had any.