Saturday, 3 July 2010

Best Supporting Actor 1954: Lee J. Cobb in On the Waterfront

Lee J. Cobb received his first Oscar nomination for playing corrupt waterfront boss Johnny Friendly in On the Waterfront.

Lee J. Cobb represents the evil side of the moral scale in On the Waterfront as the arrogant Johnny Friendly. Friendly is very much the low life, and a evil man in basically all regards but Cobb never plays him in one way, nor does he ever seem one dimensional. Like all the other characters he is realistically played by Cobb and despite being evil he still is clearly a person. The well written screenplay and Cobb create a very realistic and memorable villain in Johnny Friendly. I like the fact that it shows Friendly as a man who came up from poor beginnings to evil ends. Cobb makes Friendly fully realized as a selfish man with his own interests, and one who refuses to be part of the rest of the crowd and just another fella.

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.

5 comments:

Sage Slowdive said...

Another 3 1/2 from me...

Louis Morgan said...

What is your opinion of the film?

Sage Slowdive said...

I thought the film was great, but everyone seemed to be overshadowed, including Eva Marie Saint.

dinasztie said...

I disagree with Sage. I think everyone was brilliant in that cast and they supported Brando extremely well (who gave the best male performance ever IMO) and I think Cobb is my pick for the win with Steiger as second and Malden as third. I also think that Eva Marie Saint deserved her Oscar too. And the movie is one of my favorites.

Louis Morgan said...

Dinasztie: Yes, everyone was great in support of Brando. Saint definitely deserved to win.