For the most part, I attended as many of the interviews as I could squeeze in; but there was still time for films, and over the next few weeks, I'll intersperse our group watching with some comments on films that I viewed during the cruise. We'll start with our day one film - On the Waterfront (1954). Eva Marie Saint, a guest on the cruise, provided some comments, along with the always knowledgeable Robert Osborne.
Watching a film in a public venue is always a more magical experience; but it can also be a problematic one. One "viewer" of the film, we are sure, attended ONLY so he could issue a loud "BOO" when Elia Kazan's name appeared on the screen. I'm aware that Kazan notoriously "named names" during his examination by the HUAC (House UnAmerican Activities Committee), and while I deeply regret his actions, I also know I wasn't there (I wasn't even born yet), so I have no idea how I would have responded to the pressure placed on Mr. Kazan in 1952. Other people "named names" - Budd Schulberg, Sterling Hayden, and Lee J. Cobb for example; yet they are not vilified the way Kazan is (It could be said that there was no need to condemn Sterling Hayden - he condemned - and punished - himself for years because he was "a stoolie"). But Kazan has become the poster boy for those who need to find someone to blame for this shameful period in America. That someone would try to ruin this great film by "showing off" his superiority was the only down note to the screening.
One scene that was discussed during the comment section was the "Glove scene" (which I've attached below). Asked if the scene was scripted or improvised, Ms. Saint talked about the rehearsals between herself and Mr. Brando. In one of their sessions, she dropped the glove, and he began to play with it, much as he does here. When Mr. Kazan arrived to discuss the rehearsal process with them, they showed him this little improvised bit, and he said to include it in the filmed version.
Another scene discussed by Ms. Saint and Mr. Osborne was this, perhaps the most famous one from the film. The scene was supposed to have a back projection as the cab sped through the City, however, it couldn't be arranged, so instead, Venetian blinds were installed to shut off the back from view. Like Mr. Osborne, I've been looking for a cab with Venetian blinds my whole life (and never found one). This TCM article also discusses that scene.
Before we go, a few factoids about On the Waterfront. In 1954, it won Oscars for Best Picture, Actor (Brando), Actress (Saint), Director (Kazan, who also won the Director's Guild Award), Screenplay (Schulberg), Cinematography (Boris Kaufmann), Black and White Art-Set Direction, and Editing). Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, AND Rod Steiger ALL received nominations for Best Supporting Actor (the award went to Edmond O'Brien for The Barefoot Contessa), and Leonard Bernstein was nominated for his score (with the award going to Dimitri Tiomkin for The High and the Mighty). The New York Times review called it "moviemaking of a rare and high order". It was #19 on the AFI's list of Greatest Films of All Time, and #3 on the "100 Years, 100 Quotes" list (for You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.") On the 25 Greatest Scores List, it placed #22, #23 on the list of the 50 Greatest Heroes, and #36 on the "Most Inspiring Films" list. In 1989, it was one of the first 25 films to be added to the National Film Registry.
If you've not seen On the Waterfront, you should, if only to see the birth of a new form of film acting. You'll also see performances that still shine, even after over 60 years.
We'll be back soon with more from the Cruise, and more from our weekly discussions.