Friday, 2 July 2010

Best Supporting Actor 1954: Rod Steiger in On the Waterfront

Rod Steiger received his first Oscar nomination for playing Charley Malloy, Terry Malloy's brother in On the Waterfront.

Charley stands in a more to the middle point on the moral scale, although learning toward the evil side. Charley though is not really completely evil,  but he certainly is not good either. Steiger is not actually in the film that much. For the early scenes of the film he mostly acts as a yes man of sorts for Johnny Friendly. He is always backing up Friendly, and also trying to convince his brother Terry to stay on the "right" path. Steiger is good at showing that Charley cares about his brother, but at the same time still holds his own interests, and the interests of Friendly first. He has the right amount of cockiness and matter of factness in these scenes.

The early section of his performance is fine but nothing overly special actually, but it does not need to be either. The important part of his performance comes from two scenes that focus quite a bit on Steiger. The first scene being when he tries to convince Friendly that he will talk to Terry. Steiger puts all the right anguish and pain into this scene. He is incredibly effective here, because he shows he truly wants to save his brother but is still interested in himself still. The way he says "he's my brother", is just perfect. Steiger puts the right amount of power into his face, showing all the right fear and and regret. Steiger makes Charley sympathtic in this one scene despite the fact he had been just a yes man before this.

The greatest scene of his performance is the famous car scene. Now this scene might seem just like it is only Brando's scene, but Steiger is also essential to making the scene as powerful as it is. Steiger begins in Charley's earlier fashion trying to act like the confidant deep thinker, trying to convince Terry to not testify. Steiger is just perfect when he realizes Terry will not do it. His sadness and regrests are perfectly conveyed by Steiger. The best though is when Terry can't believe Charley would pull a gun out on him, and when Terry states the famous line. Steiger is perfect when he shows he can barely get the words out and that Charley himself really cannot understand what he is doing. All his smartness of before is perfectly stripped of him by Steiger. Charley breakdown is completely rings true, and is truly effective due to Steiger. He perfectly shows Charley's own regrets and sadness at what he did to his own brother. Steiger reactions to everything Brando does is spot on. Both are finely attuned with each other in this scene, and plays off each other perfectly. Both actors are downright perfect in this scene, making it one of the most powerful I have ever seen. 

2 comments:

Sage Slowdive said...

Probably a 3 1/2 from me...I feel like most of the cast were overshadowed by Marlon Brando.

Louis Morgan said...

Sage: I felt basically the whole cast was superb even if Brando was the best part of it.

Fritz: Yes his performance was as essential as Brando's in that scene.