April 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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DVD Film Review: On the Waterfront Music by Leonard BERNSTEIN
Starring: Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Maldon, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger.   Directed by Elia Kazan. Produced by Sam Spiegel.
  COLUMBIA TRI-STAR CDR 10017   [103 mins]

On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront released in 1954 won 8 Academy Awards including gongs for Marlon Brando (best actor), Eva Marie Saint (best actress) plus best picture, best director, best screenplay, and best editing. It also garnered Academy Award nominations for Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger and Karl Malden plus the music of Leonard Bernstein.

The DVD release of this classic film gives us the opportunity of not only admiring afresh the fine ensemble acting with Brando, Steiger, Cobb, Malden and Saint all contributing riveting performances but also to admire Leonard Bernstein's atmospheric and dramatic score. His music reflects not only the cold, harsh, often brutal life of the New York dock labourers (listen to the hard, wild percussion, the wailing saxophone, and the baying brass of the opening sequence, for instance, as Terry (Brando) is set up into decoying a rebellious worker to his death at the hands of the mob); but also more tender, more compliant music for the romance between Terry and Edie (Eva Marie Saint) who appeals to his better nature and persuades him to turn against the mob. Added to this is the splendidly descriptive music evoking the New York waterfront in winter. See also the review of Bernstein's symphonic suite from the music he composed for On the Waterfront on the album, New York, New York Leonard Bernstein on Broadway reviewed on this site this month.

Although this DVD is not exactly feature-rich it does include an in-depth analysis of probably the most famous and most discussed scene in the film, that shot in the back of the taxi cab in which in vain Charley the Gent (Steiger) tries, in vain, to dissuade his brother Terry (Brando) from giving evidence against the mob knowing that their brotherly love will be his death warrant.

Ian Lace


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