The 1954 Best Picture winner was the crime drama On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb (12 Angry Men), and Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night). And damn did Brando bring out his major Brando-ness.
I mean, Holy Brando! The dude can just stand there being all Brando-y and it’s like 99.975 percent certain that he can kick my ass without even uttering a single word or raising one measly finger. And this is way before his turn as Vito Corleone.
In this movie, however, Brando plays Terry Malloy, an up-and-coming boxer who had it all until his brother Charley instructs him to deliberately lose a fight he could have won at the will of Johnny Friendly – a crimester, mob-boss baddie who has a lot of money on the fight and ends up controlling both of the brothers from there on out. Terry then unbeknowingly (not a word) coaxes a popular dockworker Joey Doyle out to an ambush and Friendly and his crew end up whacking the guy so he can’t testify against the boss who’s trying to control the waterfront and all of its dockworker peoples.
Doyle’s sister (Saint) comes out of the woodwork to try to find out who killed her brother and why, and then we have the makings of the best movie 1954 had to offer.
Did I mention it had Marlon Brando in it?
Cobb was great, too, and also nominated despite losing the honor of Best Supporting Actor to Edmond O’Brien for The Barefoot Contessa. I haven’t seen that movie, but Cobb losing is stupid. (I’m a super-serious film critic in the making, you guys!) Steiger was also nominated for Supporting and lost out. Bummer.
In full, Waterfront was nominated for 12 Oscars and it swept 8 of those categories, including trophies for Brando (OBVI) and Saint.
The 50’s was such a great era for film. Everything starts to come together in this decade – directing, acting, writing. Not to discredit anything before this, but this movie was in the zone. The perfect trifecta of classic cinema. With on point pacing and a nice twist before its climax (which wasn’t so surprising thanks to the stupid box art), On the Waterfront is worthy for any crime film fan or Brando aficionado.
Completely useless and irrelevant fun fact: Listening to Rage Against the Machine while trying to do anything productive is extremely distracting.
I mean, oh, the grade. This one’s an A-, kids.