July 30, 1954 [On the Waterfront]

Marlon Brandon as Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront sits on the child’s swing, coaxing Eva Marie Saint’s Edie Doyle into a smile.  She drops her glove, he fools with it, finally proves his point by slipping it on his hand, stretching it just a little.  Later on, Karl Malden will let Terry chase him to make his confession, Malden calm, measuring Terry’s soul, reminding him who his real brothers are.  And Terry himself will turn priest--judge?--in the back seat of a car, laying his brother’s sins at his feet--and finally lunge drunkenly at Lee J. Cobb’s monstrous crook, someone else finally the bum.

But I watched him with the glove--still see it in the beautiful grey light, his chin down, his own smile rising.  Brando manages to whisper exultation in that little gesture, like nothing I’ve seen, a true movie image, intimately epic--ah, the pretentiousness of that!  But it’s all I have: the certainty that the true cinematic spectacle narrows the view, brings it down to a few who clash on the Homeric plain--the noise of battle fading, the agonies of blood and regret simple and held in one hand, the light soft, almost promising.


  1. Always difficult to believe that the Brando of Waterfront could blossom as Corleone and Apocalypse!


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