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 Oscar-winning director 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 - it told a story of trade union corruption, racketeering and violence on the New York waterfront, with a symbolic Christian martyr theme:

  • the opening lines of the film were: "Joey, Joe Doyle!...Hey, I got one of your birds. I recognize him by the band...He flew into my coop. You want him?" - the lines were delivered by slow-witted, illiterate Irish waterfront bum and ex-fighter Terry Malloy (Oscar-winning 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; there, two shadowy thugs were lurking to murder him - punishing him for threatening to 'sing' to the New York State Crime Commission.
  • Joey Doyle's murder occurred after 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 the News of 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 grieving and distraught 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"
  • Terry 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
Terry 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"
  • in a neighborhood saloon, the kind-hearted Edie and Terry were on 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 Terry 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, after challenging his allegiances, 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")
  • dockworker Timothy "Kayo" Dugan (Pat Henning), who was about to secretly testify before the Crime Commission - was also deliberately killed on the job by the dumping of a heavy pallet on top of him; Father Barry delivered last rites over the body
  • Father Barry gave a symbolic and memorable "Sermon on the Docks" in the hold, a speech to commemorate Dugan's death, about 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 His Involvement in Doyle's Murder

To Father Barry
To Edie
  • as he began to fall in love with Edie, Terry became more and more conflicted about testifying against the mob, and about disobeying his crooked older brother Charley Malloy, who worked for Friendly. Terry made two confessions about his complicit involvement: (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 as she reacted with horror, turned and ran away from him and never turned back
  • the film's most memorable and famous scene was Terry's emotionally-naked New York taxi-cab dialogue, delivered in the back seat of a 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. He chided his brother about not looking out for him properly and allowing him to become a failure and a bum, by urging him to take a fall in his last fixed fight: "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
  • in the next sequence - Terry smashed 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 anyway, and they ended up embracing in a kiss
  • Terry shockingly discovered Charley's corpse hanging on a longshoreman's hook in a back alley, illuminated by a truck's headlights; he was presumably murdered as a reprisal, 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!"
  • in a devastating scene, 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
Terry's 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 as a "WATERFRONT MURDER BOSS"; 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 at the pier 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 was able to rally the longshoremen to his cause against the exploitative dock bosses by refusing to lose his union job; he 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; he had convinced the others to refuse to work unless he was allowed entry into the warehouse
  • 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 Doyle (Eva Marie Saint) with Father Barry (Karl Malden) After Her Brother Joey's Murder

Terry with Mob boss 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 a Meat 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 Vain Threat


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