Johnny Friendly is a stereotypical villain. Despite this, in some ways, he deserves the viewer’s sympathy’ To what extent do you agree with this view?
Johnny Friendly, the corrupt leader of the Hoboken Waterfront 1950s, New York is mostly depicted as a cliched gangster in the film On the Waterfront. He is larger than life, manipulative, controlling and a man who is driven by power and greed, all aspects clearly linked to the typical portrayal of villains of the 1940s and 50s films in America. Despite this, director Elia Kazan presents a side of Friendly that audiences are capable of feeling some compassion for. However, ultimately Friendly’s actions and his behaviour override any positive sentiments we may have towards him.
However, in Friendly, we sometimes have glimpses of a man who is capable of moments of humanity. It is unfair to simply judge Friendly and dismiss him. In the bar scene, he attempts to show some paternal affection towards Terry. He takes care of him financially, calls him ‘our boy’ and viewers’ sympathy for Friendly builds further when we learn of the circumstances of Friendly’s childhood and upbringing. He does not speak of having a father while growing up, “My old lady had to raise us ten kids on a stinking watchmen’s pension, and I had to beg to work in a hole...” Although viewers feel some sympathy for his difficult past, Friendly soon cancels our feelings as he explodes in anger at Skin when he discovers that the pay is cut short. He slaps him, yelling ‘go back to Green Point… you don’t work here no more’. Not long after this, he torments the waterfront workers by denying work to those who refuse to follow his orders. Friendly has little respect for the church and orders the destruction of Father Barry’s windows as he feels threatened byFather Barry’s dedication to helping the longshoremen.
Once Johnny Friendly has power, he has to maintain it at all costs, and he asserts his authority using violence, intimidation even murder...
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