Marlon Brandon won his first Oscar from his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront.
Marlon Brando's Terry Malloy is a completely vivid person to me, and always seems that way with every viewing of the film. Terry's humble beginning at the film of doing a simple job for the local crime boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), which is to tell a friend of his Joey Doyle to meet him on the roof of Joey's building. This actually leads to Doyle being confronted by Friendly's thugs, and ends up with the death of Doyle. Terry is greatly shaken up being this because he thought they only wanted to talk to Joey. This action causes Terry to go slowly down the rode of examining his own life, and his involvement with Johnny Friendly.
Terry's struggle with his conscience, and dealing with life around the docks of New York City is fascinating to watch for yes the script is brilliant, but perhaps Brando as Terry is even more so. He makes Terry such a believable man, and one that for me anyways causes a great deal of empathy. I really instantly felt for and with Terry through his story. Now Brando never seems to be forcing this, but it comes with his completely natural performance.
The naturalism of Brando's performance is rather fascinating, because in a lot of ways this is not a self contained performance, that is all simple. Brando has a lot of certain movements, and does certain things with his performance which with a lesser performance may have seemed mannered, or obvious acting, but there is none of this with Brando's performance. All of what Brando does in terms of his movements as Malloy are seem completely along with the washed up beaten down ex-boxer. Every physical motion, only further suggests the nature of Malloy, furthers the performance, and every part of performance still seems to never have a single scene of noticeable acting, Brando is simply that good here.
Brando is wonderful in every moment of this film, and always keeps Malloy an interesting character despite Malloy being in ways a simple guy. Brando makes the most of every moment of screen time he has always adding layers to his character which are expertly handled by Brando. He makes Malloy, a person I feel I really knew after the film was over, because Brando performance as I said was completely vivid, and absolutely realistic.
Brando is excels in every different type of scene he is in. One being his romantic scenes with Eva Marie Saint as Edie Doyle. Their moments are terrific together. One could say Brando overshadows Saint with his performance, and perhaps he does, but it does not stop their romance to feel completely truthful, and wonderful to watch. Brando excels in these moments because he is interestingly incredibly charming, even though Terry Malloy is not exactly an extremely charming guy. This may sound quite odd, but Brando simply brings out charm in a not wholly charming character which is another achievement of this performance. Brando balances well Terry attempt at finding love, along with dealing with his own guilt over the death of Edie's brother Joey. Brando manages the balance with the utmost care, to make both the romance, and the guilt resonate even more effectively.
Brando though also shines incredibly in scenes of simply non-stop emotional power which first begin with he famous car scene. The scene in the car I think is one of the best scenes ever, in any film ever made. Everything in this one scene comes together so well, from the whole small set up in the small back seat of the car leaving only the emotions to see, the haunting music of Leonard Bernstein, and the great performances from Rod Steiger as Charley Terry's brother and Marlon Brando. The actors together create a truly incredible moment. Their moments here are simply unforgettable, they make this scene incredibly emotional and effective. Brando perfectly displays the inner harm of Terry's so well, and really the delivery of the famous line could not be more honest, more truthful, or more powerful than the way Brando displays it through Terry.
After the great scene I feel the film never stops in its strength and power and a whole lot should be credited to Brando. He displays Malloy nonstop changes through these scenes amazingly, and he never loses any of the power of the performance, from his want for revenge, combined with sadness, and need of love. Brando combines all of the emotions of Terry's struggle, and I feel he makes the audience feel them with him. I really was with Terry all the way especially in his final confrontation with Johnny Friendly. His passion, and his final stand up against corrupt is resonates fully, because of Brando's greatness in this perfect performance.