On the Waterfront Notes and Quotes
Following the credits, drumbeats accompany a scene at the New York waterfront, where a large ocean liner is docked. The angry gangster union boss, Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) who callously rules this section of the waterfront, walks up the gangplank with his mobster entourage from the office (shack) of the Longshoreman's local Union. Slow-witted, illiterate waterfront bum Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) follows behind, surviving as a lackey by running odd jobs and errands for Johnny and doing strong-arm work. He is asked to lure to the rooftop of his tenement building a young dockworker Joey Doyle, one of the informant union workers who is planning to “sing to the crime commission” by testifying before the Waterfront Crime Commission against gangsters who tyrannically control the docks. Terry shouts to fellow pigeon-lover Joey that he has his pigeon ‘Danny-Boy.’ Joey’s comment “I gotta watch myself these days” indicates that fear is a part of this community. Terry unwittingly becomes a pawn in setting a trap to murder his fellow longshoreman dockworker when he convinces potential informant Joey to meet him on the roof. When he looks up to the rooftop, he sees the dark figures of two men standing there. Instead of joining Joey on the roof, he releases his pigeon into the air, and then walks down the street to a seedy bar, Johnny Friendly's BAR. In front of the corner saloon is Charley Malloy "The Gent" (Rod Steiger), Terry's smartly-dressed older brother and manager. Charley, who works as Johnny Friendly's smart and crooked lawyer and as chief lieutenant, is flanked by two of Friendly's goons. In shock, Terry witnesses Joey's murder, as he is hurled from the rooftop to his death many stories below with a bloodcurdling scream. Unknowingly set up, Terry is stunned by the murder, believing that the racketeers (and his brother) would only threaten the man: I thought they was gonna talk to him...I thought they was gonna talk to him and get him to dummy up...I figured the worst they was gonna do was lean on him a little bit...Wow! He wasn't a bad kid, that Joey. Two of the thugs make a joke about the 'squealer' who has threatened to 'sing' to the crime commission and break the waterfront's unspoken code to be 'D and D' (Deaf and Dumb): “A canary. Maybe he could sing but he couldn't fly!” The men’s joke about Joey is juxtaposed with Terry’s concern and guilt over what has just occurred, highlighting his awareness of the immorality he has been part of. In the street, a shocked crowd gathers around Joey's body. Introduced characters are local parish priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) who delivers the last rites, Joey's father Pop Doyle (John Hamilton), and Joey's fresh-faced sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint). One of the neighbors, Mrs. Collins (Anne Hegira) knows this was no accident: "Same thing happened to my Andy five years ago...(about Joey) He was the only longshoreman that had the guts to talk to them crime investigators ... Everybody knows that." Pop laments that his son didn't follow his advice: "Kept telling him. Don't say nothin'. Keep quiet. You'll live longer." Angered by the senseless murder of the brother she was close to, Edie screams: "I want to know who killed my brother!" In the rough waterfront bar where some of the patrons watch a prizefight on a TV above the bar, Big Mac, the waterfront hiring boss, brings beer-drinking Johnny Friendly a thick wad of bills, revealing union racketeering, corruption, strong-arm tactics and payoffs. As a man in his 30s who is exploited like a pawn by others, ex-prizefighter and has-been Terry knows that he owes his waterfront career and livelihood to Johnny Friendly, head of the racketeers, and to his brother Charley. Johnny refers to Terry as “slugger,” “kid” and “our boy” indicating the fondness he feels for the young man. When Terry is incapable of accurately counting a wad of bills Big Mac good-naturedly comments on Terry's lack of education:...
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