On the Waterfront

Patrick Kettyle

On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront was an outstanding movie that kept me interested from the moment Joey was pushed off the roof, to the moment the credits started to reel. It is an excellent movie, as shown by the many awards won by the actors and director Elia Kazan. On The Waterfront also had a lot of great aspects in the movie that added to the plot of the movie and helped make it the timeless classic that it is today.

I made sure to pay close attention to when Leonard Bernstein’s score was employed in this movie and I noticed that it was used a lot during important scenes. For instance, the cab scene with Terry and Charley has music with a suspenseful feeling to it. We are already on the edge of our seats wondering what the outcome of this scene will be, and the music adds to that feeling. There is also up-tempo music used during the fight between Terry and Johnny. As the fight progresses and Terry gets beat up by the group, there is transition in the music and it is less upbeat to add to our disappointment because our hero has lost the battle.

The camera movement when Terry is walking to the head of the dock added a lot to the drama at the end of the film. While he is walking, the camera alternated from the third-person perspective and the first-person perspective. The third person perspective focuses on Terry’s bloodied face and him stumbling, while the first-person perspective focuses on blurred images of the head of the dock in the distance. Both of these images shown by camera movement are effective in emphasizing Terry’s great struggle and his determination to beat Johnny Friendly.

The costumes were an important addition to the setting. They make it easy to distinguish characters in the movie. Terry is seen wearing a rugged lumberjack shirt throughout the movie, along with the dockworkers that are seen with simple attires. Father Barry is always shown in his priest attire, which stands out, and Edie’s flowing blonde hair makes her stand out because of the way she lights up a crowd. The mobsters are always seen wearing suit jackets, which makes them hard to miss. Another thing that makes the costumes important is Terry’s costume change. Terry puts on Joey’s jacket when he decides to take on the responsibility of exposing Jonny Friendly’s corruption, which shows the end of his inner conflict.

The dialogue used throughout this movie is not very complex. It is filled with a lot of 1950s slang, such as “potato-eater” and “gravy-train rider,” which was excellent for setting the time period of the film. The term “informant” is described using a lot of different slang words in the movie, such as “canary,” “cheese-eater,” and “stool pigeon.” The last term has another meaning besides “informant.” Pigeon is also used to describe the dockworkers in the movie. When Terry is talking about pigeons and hawks to Edie, he says that the hawks prey on the pigeons of the city. “You know this city’s full of hawks? There must be twenty thousand of ’em. They perch on top of the big hotels and swoop down on the pigeons in the park.” This is a parallel to what the mobsters do to the dockworkers and makes the term pigeon a symbol for innocence and someone who avoids confrontation, because the dockworkers are innocent and trapped under Johnny Friendly’s thumb.

In the taxicab scene, the combination of camerawork, dialogue, and acting made this scene one of the most famous in the history of film. Although there wasn’t a lot of complexity in it, the dialogue was very intense and evoked a lot of emotion, especially when Terry utters the great line “I coulda had class, I could have been a contender.” This line shows that Terry has a lot of emotional issues with his brother. What makes this line so effective is the additional buildup up to this line. The camera style for this scene is in a third person perspective, and what makes it especially effective is that it shows both characters at the same time. This lets us see the each character’s reactions to what another character says or does, which filled the scene with a lot of emotion. After each line is said in the scene there was a pause, which allowed for the tension to build up.  Finally, Terry’s emotion, shown by his facial expressions and the tone of his voice, makes this line the most powerful lines of the movie.

Both beer and whiskey are Irish drinks that show their faces from time to time throughout the movie. These go along with the ethnic setting of the movie because the characters are predominately Irish. However, religiously, these drinks had to have raised some eyebrows in this movie. Typically, priests are typically the symbol of purity shown by their proper clothes, dialogue, and refined actions. However, Father Barry is seen having a drink with Terry during the bar scene which goes against the religious setting of the time. This action also brings these two characters closer together, which makes alcohol a symbol of unity. This is also seen when Edie and Terry go out on their first date. They both take a shot of whiskey, which symbolizes the start of their relationship.

For me, there were so many different elements to On the Waterfront that made it excellent to watch. The acting, music, thought provoking slang in the dialogue, costumes, and camera style all added to the great plot of the film and made it great to see.


Today, we learned about the ton of aspects of a movie’s mis-en-scene. We learned that we could use the many details in a film to argue our interpretation of it. There are way too many aspects for me to go into with this blog because we looked at so many aspects and we looked at a lot of different film clips from Manhattan to show how these aspects were employed, such as the camera choice of the movie, the lighting, different things in the background.

One that interested me the most was that there are so many little details that a director puts into a movie that the audience bypasses. One example of this is the separation of characters in scenes by very thin lines in the background that appear between them. This was seen in Manhattan when Mary and Yale were at the mall and you can see the very fine line separating them, while in the apartment scene with Issac and Mary they were separated by entire rooms. These details foreshadowed the distance in their relationships and showed who would end up being together in the end.

Important lighting was shown in the a scene in his Issac’s old apartment where there is a light shining directly on Tracy while the rest of the scene is dark, which shows her importance and foreshadow them being together. The movie was filmed in cinemascope in order to get the whole view of Manhattan’s skyline and emphasize the city’s beauty and importance. What really interested me too and it was something that I would have never picked up on was the fact that in every scene, the characters are off center to be symbolic of certain things. This is a employed a lot in Woody Allen movies. For example, the scene with Yale and his wife, is shot with them off center which symbolizes their off balance relationship and their off balance morals.


I really enjoyed our discussion about “The Catcher in the Rye” today. We took time to analyze Holden’s character and the setting of the novel. We discussed Holden’s character and the language that he uses because of the time period. We focused on the word “phony” which was used differently than its literal meaning. It is going to be a real challenge to come up with a word that is used the same way. The only word that we used in class was “Fake,” which is a word that is used very often today in conversations. I am looking forward to doing this assignment because it will be like I am writing my own edition of the book. This will be a fun experience for me because I don’t think I am likely to be writing a book in my lifetime, but I will have a taste of it.

What really interested me about today’s class was the discussion about archetypes. I had no idea what archetypes were before this class and now that I know about them I am going to be looking at movies and novels a lot more closely. I was very surprised when Professor Kahan told us that the original Star Wars, some my favorite movies, were based on the first archetype, the story of Jesus.  I don’t think that I would have ever made this connection. Off the top of my head I can think of a few movies that are based on the story of Jesus like The Lion King and The Matrix. 


On Wednesday, we watched Manhattan, a movie directed by Woody Allen. I really enjoyed the movie’s plot and humor. I was a little disappointed that it was in black in white, because I’m not a big fan of black and white movies, but overall I think that it was a great movie and here is my analysis.

1. The primary function of the camera in this film is to give the viewer a sense that they are a part of every conversation in the film. This is very effective because you truly get a sense that you are in New York with Woody Allen throughout the film.

2. In most of the scenes with people, you can see everyone’s face at the same time and there are not a lot of edits. You can see everyone’s reaction after something is said which makes the conversations very realistic. There are many points where you can’t see an actors face when they speak because of the lighting or because the actor is off screen.

3. Since this movie is in black and white, you lose a lot of details. When the screen is in black and white, the viewer has to use their own imagination, and determine from the reactions of the characters, how pretty the color of a dress is a dress is or how brown a cup of water is. One example of this is when Woody Allen’s character comments that the water is brown, it impossible to agree with him, because it is hard to tell from the screen. However, you can tell by Diane Keaton character’s reaction, that the water is very brown.

4. The dialogue in this film is very conversational. Woody Allen employs a lot of sarcasm and humor in the conversations, which make the movie entertaining.

5. The costumes in this film are casual clothing. In almost every scene the characters are wearing casual clothing, which makes each scene look like a regular day in New York.

6. There isn’t much music in the movie. Rather, there is a lot of focus on what the actor is saying. When there is music, it sets the scene. There is romantic music when Woody Allen and Diane Keaton first hangout, which shows that there is a brewing, romance. There is also intense music when Diane Keaton says that she is in love with Yale and Woody Allen goes to talk to Yale.

7. The set of the movie is Manhattan. The choice of the set is very fitting because the movie was very fast paced and that is exactly what Manhattan is all about.



Today was the finale of our poetry presentations, which had a great ending. Everyone did a great job on the last day, and we finished with a summary of what we had to do during this project. We talked about how all of us had to take a step out of our comfort zones, for five minutes, and do our best to become somebody else. It is a true challenge to stand up in front of a crowd and convey the meaning of a poem in the way that the poet wanted.

Stephanie ended our presentations on a great note with her poem The New Colossus. I really enjoyed this poem because of its strong sense of patriotism. It was a poem that truly showed what it means to be an American, and it remind me of how proud I to be an American. Stephanie did a great job in performing the poem. She was very emotional, and I really got a great sense of patriotism in the way that she presented it.

Before class was over, we briefly discussed our next segment of the course, movies. I am really excited and relieved about this; because poetry has never been my strong suit and I would much rather analyze movies than poetry. There are a lot of different aspects that go into a movie besides the storyline and the actors or actresses. For me, it is going to be very interesting to see a lot of great movies, and look into them deeply, and especially some older ones, because I have not seen a lot of them.


Today in seminar class we had more poetry presentations. So far, I have seen everyone in the class come out of their comfort zone with these presentations and they have done extremely well with their presentations. Every day so far we have had a lot of fun with these presentations. From getting a good laugh out of me trying to not end every sentence like a question, to shouting out BangClash, we have had a lot of fun with these presentations, and today was no different. During the second half of Brendon’s presentation, some of us had a chance to rap in class. Everyone had a funny rap to say and it was fun watching my classmates be put on the spot and put together a few rhymes. It was also interesting to see Brendon perform his poem as a rap.

All of the performances were great today. I enjoyed James’s presentation of Ing-grish by Joh Yau. I thought that his poem was very amusing. He had a poem that was tailored for his personality, and he did a great job of performing it with his hand gestures and the inflections in his voice.

I was very impressed with Rob’s poem. It was nice to see his poem read alongside a piece of music. There are a lot of songs that I consider to be poetry combined with music, but I had never thought that actual poetry could be combined with music.

I was also very impressed with Penina’s presentation. I am used to seeing her as a quiet person, which is the complete opposite of what I saw when she performed her poem. She became a different person and performed her poem with a lot of emotion, which was very impressive.


Today Professor Richard Powers came to speak to us about architecture. Although I didn’t understand a lot of his jokes, I think he gave us a very interesting and informative presentation about architecture.

One of the main points of his lecture was that architecture embodies the “ethnos,” or culture, of society. He showed us different examples of this throughout history. For instance, he showed us some early American buildings were modeled after Greek and Roman architecture. I was aware of this before the lecture, but what I did not know was the meaning behind this. Professor Powers explained to us that by modeling Greek and Roman architecture, the founding fathers showed that they wanted to impose order with their architecture.

Professor Powers explained to us that modern architecture is shifting away from focusing on historical revivals and is being geared towards engineering ideas. A lot of skyscrapers were constructed to anchor blimps, which was something I had no idea about until now. Skyscrapers are also modeled after rockets, like the Chrysler building, which makes sense because a lot were constructed during the time when humanity was focused on expanding its horizons and traveling to outer space. He also explained to us that a lot of buildings want to give different impressions. For instance, the architect of the George Washington Bridge wanted to evoke a sense of honesty, because every part of the bridge serves its own purpose. He talked about different types of architecture and their influences, such as gothic architecture, which is a symbol of religion.

Out of all the buildings that he showed us, Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water” was my favorite. This building is beautiful, and I like his idea that we can find refuge in nature, because I love nature and would like to have a home close to nature in the future.



Today in seminar class, we continued our poetry presentations. We started off class with Jaclyn’s poem, which was a difficult poem for me to understand because of its hidden meanings. After Professor Kahan explained to us the beginning of the poem, I thought it was interesting because I can relate to it. Time and time again, I have had a dream that involved the alarm sound on my iPod trying to wake me up.

During Andrew’s performance, we had some fun after he finished reading his second poem. I think its safe to say that everyone enjoyed saying BangClash enthusiastically. We even got a good laugh when I came to my turn to read it. I was extremely impressed with Andrew’s poem that he wrote. It was a beautiful poem and he put a lot into his performance. You could tell that he was very passionate about what he was reciting. I give him a lot of credit for presenting his own work to the class. I think it would be a lot harder for me to say a poem that I wrote, rather read a famous poem.

Christian’s poem was my favorite out of the poems read today. I liked the fact that the poet just wrote a poem about a “snap shot” of a few moments in his life. It was a very nice poem that reminds us that there is more to a person than their appearance or occupation.

I was also impressed by Naomi’s performances today. I think that she did a very good job of performing Dorothy Parker’s poems. She showed a lot of emotion in her poem like Amber did in the previous class and was able to show everybody her great talent of performing.


Today in seminar class, we started our poetry presentations. Although I am not very comfortable with public speaking, I had fun doing my presentation. I enjoyed my poem and I enjoyed performing it in front of the class. We all had a good laugh while I was trying to re-read my commentary. I would really like practice public speaking so that I can stop ending every sentence like a question and focus on looking at the crowd more. I am glad to know what I have to improve on, and I know I will be less nervous the next time I go to speak in front of an audience.

Overall, it was nice to see everyone’s performances. Everyone put their best foot forward in performing their poems. I especially enjoyed Amber’s performance because I saw a side of her that I had never seen before and she did a great job acting out her poem.

We had a lot of interesting discussions about the poems as well. It was interesting to talk about Marylyn Monroe. I did not know a a lot about her besides that she was a provocative actress in the 1940s. From this poem and the discussion we had, I realized that I only have this idea based on the media’s portrayal of her, which should not be my final opinion about her. People should not be judged based primarily on how the media portrays them. They should be judged based on facts and from our own interactions with them.