30 Day Film Challenge
Day 10 - The most overrated film you’ve seen
On the Waterfront (1954)
Directed by Elia Kazan
Written by Budd Schulberg
This could prove to be a controversial one. At face value it’s a perfectly good film, but I dislike this ‘classic’ for political reasons. I’ll quote from Wikipedia to explain:
The film is widely considered to be Kazan’s answer to those that criticized him for his identifying eight (former) Communists in the film industry before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in 1952. Kazan’s critics included his friend and collaborator, the renowned playwright Arthur Miller, who had written the original screenplay (titled The Hook) for the film that would evolve into On the Waterfront. Miller was replaced by Budd Schulberg, also a witness before HUAC.
Arthur Miller’s original draft of the screenplay The Hook was pulled by the playwright after he was asked to change the villains to Communists.
On the Waterfront, being about a heroic mob informer, showed that there could be nobility in a man who “named names”. In the movie, variations of that phrase are repeatedly used by Terry Malloy. The film also repeatedly emphasizes the waterfront’s code of “D and D” (“Deaf and Dumb”), remaining silent at all costs and not “ratting out” one’s friends. In the end, Malloy does just that and his doing so is depicted sympathetically. Miller’s response to the film’s message is contained in his own play, A View from the Bridge, which presents a contrary view of those who inform on others.
Kazan and Schulberg named names to HUAC in order to keep their jobs, then set about making a film which glorifies an informant. The actions of that character are noble, but the film’s subtext excuses Kazan and Schulberg’s much less noble actions during the McCarthy witch-hunt.
It’s quite telling that when Kazan received an honorary Academy Award in 1999, he received half a standing ovation - people such as Nick Nolte, Ed Harris, Ian McKellen and Amy Madigan refused to applaud him. And, even more importantly, I just called his film overrated on my blog. Take that, Kazan!