Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

On the Waterfront (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

On The Waterfront (1954)

In Elia Kazan's Best Picture-winning film with realistic dialogue and sets of grimy Hoboken, and featuring a prime example of Method acting from Oscar-winning actor Marlon Brando:

  • the opening lines of the film: "Joey, Joe Doyle!...Hey, I got one of your birds. I recognize him by the band...He flew into my coop. You want him?" - delivered by slow-witted, illiterate waterfront bum and ex-fighter Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) who lured fellow pigeon-lover Joey Doyle, a young dockworker/longshoreman, informant (to the Waterfront Crime Commission) and union worker, to a rooftop loft to get his Danny-Boy bird, where two shadowy thugs were lurking
  • the subsequent murder of Joey Doyle occurred when he was hurled from the rooftop to his death many stories below with a bloodcurdling scream
Terry: "Joey, Joe Doyle!"
Two Thugs on the Rooftop
Terry's Dismay at Joey's Death
  • Terry owed his waterfront career and livelihood to corrupt union boss Johnny Friendly (Oscar-nominated Lee J. Cobb), head of the racketeers, who ran nearby Johnny Friendly's Bar; to Terry's dismay, other Friendly goons joked about Joey's death: ("A canary. Maybe he could sing, but he couldn't fly")
  • after Father Barry (Oscar-nominated Karl Malden) delivered Joey's last rites on the street, his fresh-faced aspiring teacher Edie Doyle (Oscar-winning Eva Marie Saint), the informant's sister (with a Catholic school background), expressed her upset to the priest: "Father, who'd want to kill Joey?...Father, my brother is dead and you talk about time and faith. My brother was the best kid in the neighborhood and everybody said so...I want to know who killed my brother!"
  • shortly later in the back of the bar, Terry was paid off by Friendly with a $50 bill for helping to eliminate Joey, and he was also promised work the next day with Big Mac (James Westerfield), the waterfront hiring boss: ("Here, kid, here's half a bill. Go get you a load on... Present from your Uncle Johnny. And Mac, tomorrow morning when you shape the men, put Terry up in the loft. Number one. Every day. It's nice, easy work, see, if you check in and goof off on a coffee bag. Okay?"); Terry was reminded by his smartly-dressed older brother and manager Charley Malloy "The Gent" (Rod Steiger), who was Friendly's smart and crooked lawyer and chief lieutenant ("You got a real friend here. Now don't forget it")
  • the scene in which Terry Malloy and Edie became acquainted after a church-meeting, as he escorted her home through the park; at first, she asked him: "Which side are you with?" and he described his self-interested affiliation: "Me? I'm with me, Terry"; as they talked and walked along and he teased her, Edie accidentally dropped one of her white gloves-mittens; Terry picked it up and cleaned it off, but instead of immediately returning it, he held it, and then put it on his left hand - as a substitute for getting close to her; eventually, she was able to remove the glove from his hand
With Edie: In the Park
Terry to Edie: "Me? I'm with me, Terry"
Walk in Park - White Glove Incident
In a Saloon
Terry's 'Dog-Eat-Dog' View to Edie - "Boy, what a fruitcake you are!"
Terry: "I'd like to help, but there's nothing I can do"
  • the scene in a neighborhood saloon between the kind-hearted Edie and Terry during a date to get a beer, when she expressed a philosophy of life totally foreign to him: ("Shouldn't everybody care about everybody else?"); he blurted out his reaction: ("Boy, what a fruitcake you are!"); contrary to Edie, he believed in a 'dog-eat-dog' world point of view: ("Do it to him before he does it to you"); Edie complained to him: "I never met anyone like you. There's not a spark of sentiment or romance or human kindness in your whole body"; in the film's most touching moment, Edie pleaded with him to help find her brother's killer ("Help me if you can, for God's sake"), but he refused: ("Edie, I'd like to help. I'd like to help, but there's nothin' I can do"); shortly later, she intuited that he was involved: ("It was Johnny Friendly who had Joey killed, wasn't it? Or he had him killed, or he had something to do with it, didn't he? He and your big brother Charley? You can't tell me, can you? Because you're part of it. Cause you're just as bad as the worst of them. Tell me the truth, Terry!...No wonder everybody calls you a bum"
  • the death of dockworker Kayo Dugan (Pat Henning), who was about to secretly testify before the Crime Commission - and was deliberately killed on the job by the dumping of a heavy pallet on top of him; Father Barry delivered last rites over the body
  • the symbolic and memorable "Sermon on the Docks" sequence in the hold, Father Barry's delivery of a sermon to commemorate Dugan's death, and the sin of keeping silent: "Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary. They better wise up. Takin' Joey Doyle's life to stop him from testifying is a crucifixion. And dropping a sling on Kayo Dugan because he was ready to spill his guts tomorrow - that's a crucifixion. And every time the mob puts the crusher on a good man - tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen - it's a crucifixion. And anybody who sits around and lets it happen - keeps silent about something he knows has happened - shares the guilt of it just as much as the Roman soldier who pierced the flesh of Our Lord to see if He was dead" - afterwards, he rode on the pallet up and out of the hatch (and heavenward) with Dugan's body on it
  • that night on the rooftop, Edie and a pensive and troubled Terry were outdoors, where he worried about his 'nervous' pigeons; she comforted him and they finally kissed in the dark
Terry's Two Confessions
About Involvement in Doyle's Murder
To Father Barry
To Edie
  • Terry's delivery of two confessions: (1) To Father Barry: "I just thought they was gonna lean on him a little bit. I never figured they was gonna knock 'em off....You know, if I spill, my life ain't worth a nickel"; and (2) To Edie - a prolonged blast from a ship's whistle drowned out and accentuated his words; she reacted with horror, turned and ran away from him and never turned back
  • the memorable and famous scene of Terry's emotionally-naked New York taxi-cab dialogue, delivered in the back seat of a taxi-cab with his mobster/lawyer older brother Charley, who worried that Terry would testify against the mob; after his brother drew a gun on him, Terry spoke about a rigged boxing match that ruined his boxing career: "It wasn't him, Charley! It was you. You remember that night in the Garden, you came down to my dressing room and said: 'Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson.' You remember that? 'This ain't your night!' My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors in the ball park - and whadda I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville....You was my brother, Charley. You shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me - just a little bit - so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money....You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am. Let's face it (pause) ...... It was you, Charley"
Back of Taxi-Cab Conversation: Terry with Charley
  • the next sequence - Terry's smashing down the door of Edie's apartment when he told her: "Edie, you love me...I want you to say it to me"; she cowered from him and responded: "I didn't say I didn't love you. I said, 'STAY AWAY FROM ME"; but he put his arms around her, and they ended up embracing in a kiss
  • the sequence of Terry's discovery of Charley's corpse hanging on a longshoreman's hook in a back alley, illuminated by a truck's headlights; he was presumably murdered because it was thought he couldn't convince Terry not to testify
  • the next day, Terry turned "stoolie" and testified in televised hearings before the Waterfront Crime Commission; Terry's words contributed to breaking wide open the case of Joey Doyle; as a result, Friendly threatened Terry with unemployment: "You've just dug your own grave. Go fall in it. You're dead on this waterfront and every waterfront from Boston to New Orleans. You don't drive a truck or a cab. You don't push a baggage rack. You don't work no place. YOU'RE DEAD!"
  • the devastating scene when Terry found that neighborhood friend Tommy, who used to admire and idolize him, had killed his pigeons on the rooftop and tossed the body of a dead bird at him: "A pigeon for a pigeon"; for testifying against the mob, Terry was derided and ostracized as a 'canary" and all of his beloved birds had their necks wrung
The Final Challenge to Friendly at the Waterfront
  • in the finale, Terry defiantly challenged the work boss and other workers, but found himself shunned by the other longshoreman as a "rat" and informer; headlines incriminated Friendly; Terry marched down to the union office-shack (followed by workers-onlookers) to personally confront Johnny Friendly and accuse him of murder: "You give it to Joey. You give it to Dugan. You give it to Charley, who was one of your own. You think you're God almighty. But you know what you are?...You're a cheap, lousy, dirty, stinkin', mug. And I'm glad what I've done to you" - followed by their bloody confrontation and fight; Terry was beaten unmercifully behind the waterfront shack and nearly killed in a fight to the death; when the fight broke up, swollen-faced Friendly invited Edie and Father Barry, who had arrived, to attend to battered Terry's bloody wounds: "You want 'im. You can have 'im. (To Edie) The little rat's yours"
  • the battered but triumphant, masochistic Terry broke the strangle-hold power of the union boss when the dockworkers defiantly claimed: "He don't work, we don't work"; the workers, forming a line on the side, rallied around their new leader as he led the loitering longshoremen back to work through the gate past the shipping boss, although he was dizzy and unsteady on his feet
  • the workers ignored the desperate screams of the soaking-wet Friendly (after he had been pushed into the water by Joey Doyle's father), who tried to prevent the workers from following Terry: "Where you guys going? Wait a minute? I'll remember this! I'll remember every one of ya! I'll be back, don't you forget that. I'll be back"

Upset Joey's Sister Edie with Father Barry After Her Brother's Murder

Terry with Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb)

Terry Reminded by His Brother Charley: "You got a real friend here"

'Accidental' Death of Informant Kayo Dugan

Father Barry's "Sermon on the Docks"

Terry and Edie's First Kiss on Rooftop

Terry Bursting into Edie's Apartment and Forcing a Kiss From Her

Hanging on Hook: The Death of Charley

Terry's Testimony

Friendly's Anger at Terry

The Murder of Terry's Beloved Birds

Passed Over For Work After Testifying

Incriminating Headlines

Defiantly Standing Up to Shipping Boss at Entrance

Friendly's Last Threat


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