rayrena rayrena at accesshub.net
Sun Feb 7 21:09:19 PST 1999

Carrol wrote

>I have never given On the Waterfront much conscious thought, but I can say
>when I saw it on its first release in the '50s (at which time I was not only a
>cold-war liberal but enjoyed a top-secret clearance from NSA), I just took it
>for granted (as I think most everyone did) that it was among other things an
>anti-communist film. It belongs with all those western epics that began with
>the Virginian (or perhaps with modern interpretations of the *Odyseey*) and
>celebrate the triumph of the abstract hero coming from nowhere to confront and
>defeat collectivist evil.

The only problem with this interpretation is that Our Hero actually *saves* collectivism. At the end of the film, after he has ratted-out the mobster union bosses, the rest of the men say they will work only if our hero does. One of the characters mentions "running OUR union on the up and up," or something along those lines. So the union, the collective, was not defeated, rather the power was taken from the corrupt bosses. In this sense I look at it as an anti-authoritarian film, not an anti-union or anti-collectivist one. Perhaps it was an anti-communist film, but if so it was, like Animal Farm or 1984, protesting the prevelant form of communism at the time, i.e., Stalinism.

K. Mickey wrote:

>The film is a defence of the morality of informing--the Marlon Brando
>character redeems himself by cooperating with the authorities, informing on
>the corrupt union boss.

It's true that he does report *to the authorities* on the union boss. Is that why the film is a defense of informing? Perhaps, but I don't see it that way. Seems to me who he snitched *to* is mostly irrelevant; the heart of the film is his fight to make the union work for its members, for the workers, instead of for the fat cats.

There is also the production history of the movie: It almost didn't get made because the studios were afraid of what they perceived as its leftist politics. The writer, Budd Schulberg, before he wrote the movie, left Hollywood because he was tired of the blacklists and because of some of his dangerous connections. Of course, none of that insulates the movie's politics from question (and it surely doesn't defend Kazan's traitorous deeds), but it does raise questions about the very-literal, if-it-criticizes-unions-it-must-be-reactionary interpretation.

> A good about the Hollywood left and its problems is "The inquisition in
>Hollywood : politics in >the filmcommunity, 1930-1960" by Larry Ceplair &
>Steven Englund, 1980,Anchor/Doubleday

Thanks for the reference.

Eric Beck

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