Although Terry complains that he”coulda been somebody”, he finally does become somebody worthy of admiration.
Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront 1954. Starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Eva Marie Saint.
“If I spill, my life ai not worth a nickel”. Terry Malloy retorts back to Father Barry in an integral scene agonising over what to do, his knowledge and unwitting participation in the ruthless murder of a co-waterside worker – Joey Doyle. Can he inform to the government or does he stay’D & D’ -‘deaf and dumb’?
The Film On the Waterfront’s protagonist, Terry is linked to the Underworld Gang of Unionists by Association, but not as an ‘Inner Member’. His memory of the past is haunted by’What could have been scenarios of an outcome had his conniving older brother Charlie, and the unethical union boss – Johnny Friendly not interfered with his’Sure Winning Outcome’ of a career-defining boxing match.
Terry’s conscience of his criminal predicament goes from woe to woe after fulfilling Edie, the murdered (nearly by his own hand) Joey Doyle’s sister with whom he rapidly develops a strong affection for.
The Visually Surreal Moments of Terry’s inner journey of transformation: The symbolic speaking to the Snow White Innocence of Edie in the foreboding fence/barrier, speaking from one side to another through the cold iron spears. The stressful on, without success, of Edie’s nice warm little glove – we see the world where he comes from and the unattainable world of his desire.
A hard to ignore Metaphor is when Edie palms Terry her brother’s coat,”Yours is coming apart”. Possibly saying this indicates that Terry Malloy’s world is falling apart.
Our guilt ridden hero faces a range of issues as we follow him along his journey self-realisation. One of those issues being self-esteem as us the film audience play’Fly on the wall’ at the famous cab ride scene -“You don’t understand, I coulda had class. I coulda been a Contender. I coulda Been Somebody… ”
Another potent Metaphor – Terry has travelled full circle because the’Dive Years’ before in the boxing ring. All bloodied and bruised. Terry is transformed into a vision of’Christ on the Waterfront’ because he’s helped to his unsteady feet by the tender exonerating lady in his life – Edie and the church’s ever-faithful agent – Father Barry. An extremely poignant ‘Redemption Scene’. He must take those incredibly painful steps on his own now if he is to win this last round against the callous Johnny Friendly, and furthermore, to see his fellow Waterside Workers successfully crush the unlawful oppression by following him into the Gates of Freedom – so to speak.
What makes this story truly interesting and one which is going to be a long time discussed, is the question of Terry’s climactic reason: Has Terry Malloy turned into a selfless hero driven by the demands of the hundreds of fellow oppressed longshoremen or has he simply become vengeful, – Avenging his brother’s murder?
However exulting the overall wind up the film ascends to, Terry has transfigured himself from Bum,”I Coulda Been A Contender…”, Snivelling has-been type without smarts’, into’Heroic Liberator’ for the Fellow Everyman.