Saturday, 15 January 2011

Best Actor 1954: Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront

Marlon Brandon won his first Oscar from his fourth Oscar nomination for portraying Terry Malloy in On the Waterfront.

On the Waterfront is a terrific masterpiece in my opinion. It certainly is Elia Kazan's best work, which tells a truly powerful story with a tremendous sense of place and atmosphere.

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.

15 comments:

MovieNut14 said...

I just *love* Brando's performance in On the Waterfront. It hasn't gotten weak over the years at all.

Anonymous said...

Wow, great review, this is definitely going to be in your top 10, I also like the performance and I loved the film, but I'll give it 4.5 Jacks.

Brandon (Twister) said...

One of THE most exquisite performances in the history of cinema, with a movie that matches his excellence.

He is really, truly the best winner in the category and for the Method or not, this is a textbook guide for screen acting. A tight, cosistent characterization that explores the characters deep emotional/moral integrity with humane honesty.

Sage Slowdive said...

Very much agreed, although I don't see the amazing performance most see.

Brandon (Twister) said...

Say WHAT?! lol

I thought you were a big fan of Brando's work here, Sage?

joe burns said...

A great performance and an impressive film.

dshultz said...

Your longest reviews are usually for the winners, so, taking a leap here and saying that Brando gets the prize!

Tanvir Bashar said...

Hey Louis in ur opinion wat wud u say are the top ten best acting performances of all time by actors

Louis Morgan said...

1. F. Murray Abraham - Amadeus
2. Robert Shaw - Jaws
3. Peter O'Toole - Lawrence of Arabia
4. Dennis Hopper - Blue Velvet
5. Gene Hackman - The Conversation
6. Martin Landau - Ed Wood
7. Jeremy Irons - Dead Ringers
8. Richard Farnsworth - The Straight Story
9. Toshiro Mifune - Rashomon
10. Richard Jordon - Gettysburg

Tanvir Bashar said...

Just curious the nest 10 and that's it

Tanvir Bashar said...

I meant the next 10

Louis Morgan said...

11. Richard Attenborough - 10 Rillington Place
12. Laurence Olivier - The Entertainer
13. Alec Guinness - The Bridge on the River Kwai
14. William Hurt - Kiss of the Spider Woman
15. Raul Julia - Kiss of the Spider Woman
16. Christopher Walken - The Deer Hunter
17. Eli Wallach - The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
18. Tatsuya Nakadai - The Sword of Doom
19. Viggo Mortensen - The Road
20. John Cazale - The Godfather Part II

Tanvir Bashar said...

Wat about James Stewart in its a wonderful life in ur list u have tht above Laurence Oliver in entertainer

Louis Morgan said...

Oh I thought I had listed him he would actually be number 7 overall.

Beth said...

Best movie quote ever: I could have been a contender!