Lee J. Cobb received his first Oscar nomination for playing corrupt waterfront boss Johnny Friendly in On the Waterfront.
He can be loud as Friendly and properly so when he needs to. Cobb certainly feels exactly like the mobster you'd expect Friendly to be, loud, but self assured and in control. I find this performance fascinating because the friendliness he does have at time even though it is always a lie. This quieter Friendly is very interesting, because he acts like a fatherly figure to Terry and others when he needs to. Cobb is perfect at being deceitful in the right way. He shows that Friendly acting this way is not all just a trick but rather part of his overall sense of power. Cobb is just as apt at showing Friendly lose his cool. Cobb is perfect in these scene because he does not show him to be a psychopath but rather a cold hearted business man of sorts. He never still loses his confidence he just has a perfect cold cruelty. Every time he is thinking of something perfectly evil he just has a more realistic evil in his performance. He shows perfectly that getting rid of someone in Johnny Friendly's view is just taking care of business.
The best scene in his performance is the final scene of the movie. This is where Friendly finally completely loses his confidence, and finally just completely almost loses it to Terry Malloy. Cobb is perfect in showing Frendly finally purely losing his business man method, and showing more of the thug he really is. The best though is when he completely loses his control of the waterfront. The way he tries to hold the power but cannot stand loses is completely correct. His pathetic state at the end of the film is really the perfect end to the film. If Cobb breakdown as Friendly was less finely attuned then perhaps the ending would not have quite as satisfying as it is. But Cobb is spot on with Friendly's loss showing that Friendly truly lost his power, making it not the least bit artificial and help creating the perfect ending scene.