Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I caught the first few minutes of "On the Waterfront" last night on TV.

I don't know why I had never before noticed in the opening credits that the music was written by Leonard Bernstein.

Yet, there it all is in the opening moments.

Johnny Friendly (the great Lee J. Cobb) and his gang of hoods are storming up the gangplank from their union office shack. Behind them looms a magnificent titanic-like ocean liner.

On the sound track, we hear startling New York jazz-inspired music.

Only a few years later, Bernstein would compose the music for "West Side Story," and it is not difficult at all to hear the same voice.

There are wonderful moments throughout this great classic film, when nothing seems to be happening, but the nothing is jacked up by the musical score. There is no overt action, yet the tension is palpable and terrifying. Johnny Friendly demanding of his lawyer (Rod Steiger) that he get his kid brother (Brando) to cool it. It's all looks and attitude and veiled threat.

Suddenly, boom-boom-dum-dum! A huge drum riff fires off like a rifle shot.


Just one of so many reasons this movie is so good, so watchable every time it appears.

Kazan, Bernstein, Brando, Steiger, Cobb, Schulberg, Saint, Malden...hole smokes...

The first ten minutes are shown above. Listen to the music.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sigh. I love that film. Seeing Brando slam through that door and kiss Saint against the wall has ruined all real relationships for me.