Trivia / On the Waterfront

  • AFI's 100 Years... Series:
  • Award Category Fraud: Although the part of Edie Doyle properly is a lead, producer Sam Spiegel listed Eva Marie Saint as a Supporting Actress in the hopes of getting her a nomination. The ploy worked, and she won the Oscar.
  • Creator Backlash: Even though Marlon Brando won the Best Actor Oscar for playing Terry Malloy, he was embarrassed by his performance. In his autobiography he wrote that when he saw the film for the first time, he became so depressed that after the movie, he left the screening room without saying a word to anyone.
  • Dawson Casting: Edie Doyle was supposed to be 19. Eva Marie Saint was 30.
    • Although Rod Steiger plays Marlon Brando's older brother in the film, in real life, Brando was a year older than Steiger.
  • Executive Meddling: In the original ending, Terry was supposed to be killed by Johnny Friendly and company, but because of The Hays Code, Terry lives and it is implied that the longshoremen triumph over Friendly.
    • Elia Kazan pointed out that Friendly was still alive at the end, insisting that he'll be back. He said that the ending wasn't meant to be taken literally but more as a resolution to Terry's personal struggle.
  • Playing Against Type: A composer version. The only film that wasn't a musical for which Leonard Bernstein wrote the incidental music.
  • Reality Subtext: Elia Kazan had been harshly criticized for reporting names to HUAC during the Red Scare, so he made a film where informing on bad people is the heroic thing to do.
  • Serendipity Writes the Plot: Sam Spiegel forgot to pay for rear-projection equipment, hence the reason why the cab where Terry and Charlie play out the film's most famous scene has blinds.
  • Throw It In: The scene where Terry picks up Edie's glove and puts it on his own hand was a complete improvisation of Brando's after Eva Marie Saint accidentally dropped it during the shot. It has since become one of the more iconic moments of the movie and Elia Kazan even said that the best decision he ever made as a director was not yelling "cut" after it happened.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Terry Malloy's fight against corruption was in part modeled after whistle-blowing longshoreman Anthony De Vincenzo, who testified before a real-life Waterfront Commission about activities on the Hoboken Docks and suffered a degree of ostracism for his deed. De Vincenzo sued and settled, many years after, with Columbia Pictures over the appropriation of what he considered his story. De Vincenzo claimed to have recounted his story to screenwriter Budd Schulberg during a month-long session of waterfront barroom meetings. Schulberg attended De Vincenzo's waterfront commission testimony every day during the hearing.
  • What Could Have Been: In an early draft, the Terry Malloy character was not an ex-pug dockworker but a cynical investigative reporter, as well as an older, divorced man.
  • Working Title: The original title was simply "Waterfront" until Columbia learned that there was a television series by that name. "Crime on the Waterfront" and "Bottom of the River" were also considered.
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