What About It?
(For a full summary of the film, scroll down to "What Happens?" below)
Terry Malloy is a bum and everybody knows it, including himself. He even has a pan handler, the traditional "bum" call him a bum. The pan handler was injured, cheated by the union and can't work, but Terry seems to have no excuse. Everybody has his number, he hears it all the time. In this film, a bum would seem to be someone without character, unremarkable, easily pushed around, and not standing for anything. Basically he's a low level lackey.
It's obvious that Terry is a mess, and gradually we discover how he got that way. It's revealed that Terry has had a tough life, father killed under mysterious circumstances, which he isn't even willing to discuss, and then a long time spent in a children's home. His brother Charlie, the thinker of the two, became his father figure, along with Johnny Friendly who apparently "took him to ball games." Terry isn't as valuable as Charlie, but he's kind of a plus one. Charlie is the brains behind Johnny Friendly and Terry is a guy who threw a fight and got them a big payday. He's the tagalong little brother. For all practical purposes, Friendly's outfit is the closest thing to a family Terry has. As in many families, there are things you don't like, but to get along, they're not mentioned. Terry just assumes that everything is normal because it's somewhat better than where he comes from. We know that at one point things were going to be better, Terry would have a title shot and been a respectable boxer, but it all took a left turn, and Terry rolled with it because he wasn't calling the shots. Perhaps he accepts that his brother is smarter, or the money is tempting, we know that Terry isn't any kind of a planner, but that's the end of his chances. There are no more fights afterwards, just work at the docks. Terry doesn't forget but what's the point to being upset about it? As he might say, it would just get him in trouble.
Naturally, he grows bitter. As he tells Edie, his philosophy is "Do it to him before he does it to you." But for all the edge that Terry claims, he's remarkably passive. Edie observes "He tries to act tough but there's a look in his eye." In many ways Terry is little more than a child who's hurt and doesn't want to be bothered. His status as a competent boxer gets him no respect, because everyone knows him, he doesn't cause trouble or fight back, he just does what he's told. The nickname "Slugger" comes across as almost an insult half the time, as it fits him so poorly now. We begin the movie with him doing Johhny Friendly a "favor." He's upset when his favor gets the well liked Joey killed. He doesn't complain about the action to Johnny Friendly, he complains because it doesn't seem right that he wasn't told. Would Terry still have lured Joey outside? We don't know and neither does Terry, but it bothers him. Just like his resentment over his boxing failure, it builds inside him but he doesn't know what to do with it, so he carries it around. He's used to being disappointed so it doesn't make him angry anymore. Yet, Terry does have talents, and ones that johnny Friendly could use and he's certainly a man that doesn't like his resources wasted. It's possible that Friendly is breaking Johnny in to "real" work on the crime side of the waterfront. Calling Joey to come to the roof would seem a natural first step in breaking him in. As he soon afterwards is asked to infiltrate the church labor meeting it would seem this is the case. Start small and build him up.
Terry could likely submerge any bad feelings for a long long time, if not for some outside influence. He's a long way from being the "contender" when we meet him. But Edie and Father Barry slowly chip away at his languor and he begins to question the place he's in, because his expectations change. He's never met someone like Edie before, a girl who takes in his abrasiveness and selfishness and suggests that the harsh nuns of his youth could've done better by him. "With a little more patience and kindness. That's what makes people mean and difficult. People don't care enough about them." she says, and it makes a lot of sense to Terry, although he can't quite admit it. He makes a point of appearing difficult to Edie, but tells Father Barry "She's the first nice thing that's ever happened to me." From Terry, this isn't hyperbole, he means exactly that, which is why her ideas about everyone caring about everyone else are so hard for him to process. He'd love for things to be that way, but knows that they're not. We get a glimpse of Terry as he'd like to be when he's up on the roof taking care of pigeons, something he does because he wants to do it and not because he has to. He understands that there are hawks watching for pigeons all the time, and while it's a small thing he tries to help with that and goes a step further teaching local kids to do the same. Terry's not very bright but he knows about pigeons because they interest him. He likes the idea of protecting them, and similarly wants to protect Edie, although not in a way she can accept.
Father Barry and Edie both tell Terry that they won't tell him what to do, but they'll leave him to his conscience. The "conscience talk" starts to get on his nerves, because he knows all along what he needs to do, but he's in between states. He has the life he knows, and the idea introduced by Father Barry and Edie, that he wants but is afraid to accept. Terry doesn't make an instant turn around. It's actually remarkable how much pushing is needed to get him to act. The change begins when he's confronted by the biggest disappointment he can imagine, the thought of his own brother thinking of having killed. Charlie gives him the opportunity to finally confront the disappointments he's been shouldering. He wanted to be a contender and a more difficult truth than that, his older brother totally failed him. In this exchange we see the dynamic of their whole relationship, Charlie's easy deflection of responsibility and Terry's usual acceptance of this. Terry isn't angry, he's more hurt than he's been in his whole life. His very slight reaction to the gun, gently pushing it away, tells us that a gun pointed on him is minor compared to how this betrayal hurts. "Oh, Charlie." he says, and we get that this is everything. he's disappointed not only for himself but for Charlie too and everything between them. The life he "knows" has been as illusory as the one that Edie represents. At this point, Terry might be capable of anything, but as if to make sure, he has to see Edie in danger and Charlie killed. Although it takes a lot his killer instinct comes out. If not for Father Barry, we believe he would kill Johnny Friendly, although it's far more likely that Terry would be killed himself as Friendly would most certainly have anticipated the action. For a moment though, we see the pleasure Terry takes in making Tillio sit down and wait for what's coming and telling the well respected priest to "go to hell."
Luckily Father Barry is able to get to him, using boxing friendly patter. "You want to hurt him? You want to finish him?" Terry accepts that his testimony would hurt Friendly more, and based on the reaction Friendly gives when discussing stool pigeons, it's not much of a stretch to believe this. It does appear to be what would hurt him. A change of heart doesn't automatically fix anything though, and although Terry's testimony is assumed to have some impending affect, it doesn't seem to hurt him right away. Right in the courtroom Friendly threatens Terry. Terry resents having police guarding him. When the only good thing in his life before Edie is destroyed (his pigeons) he knows that what he did is not enough. Terry has by then givien up his passivity. He'll go "get his rights," he tells Edie, and shows up at the dock, where the D and D act is unchanged. Nobody admires him for what the did and they're all still on Friendly's payroll, even Pops. The injured homeless pan handler is given work and still there's nothing for Terry. It isn't until he approaches Friendly directly that anything changes, as this is a spectacle worth missing work over. Despite a few tricks, Terry is easily able to best Friendly in a fight, but that isn't worth as much as he might have thought, since Friendly's thugs are eager to jump in. This action also doesn't help Friendly as much as he thinks and the workers, too late to help Terry can refuse to work in solidarity with Terry, unless Terry leads them in. Power is finally out of Friendly's hands as the freight owner needs the work done and he clearly can't accomplish this. Father Barry shows up again for coaching, and as usual he helps in a way you might not expect. he encourages Terry, and then keeps anyone from helping him walk in the door to get to work. He knows that if this is to be a victory at all, Terry has to do it himself, and he does. What comes next, who knows, but if nothing else, Terry is living on his own terms for the first time since he can recall.
Marlon Brando is amazing in this role, giving a performance that stands out in film history. His Terry Malloy was a turning point for the film anti hero. He wasn't a good guy. He wasn't even good at being a bad one. Terry was a guy who really had no idea about anything other than his habits. Brando gave us a tough leading man living in a state of perpetual hurt. We're showed this more than told, by his mannerisms and how he carries himself. This guy was once a fighter, but every movement tells us that it was a long time ago. "Doing the right thing" is not a familiar concept to him and he needs to be given motivation before it even makes sense. We see the fog he lives in and its gradual clearing.
Rod Steiger is terrific here as well. For his small amount of screen time, we get a remarkably full character. Whereas Terry lives on the fringes, Charlie has bought into Friendly deep, as the right hand man. Charlie has his own delusions though, different than Terry's, bigger. Charlie sees dollar signs and suits. Charlie could well be the source of Terry's "philosophy." Yet, for everything that's happened, he still loves his brother, and once forced to look at how he's failed him, we can see it break his heart. He gives Terry his gun, knowing he won't see him again and asks the driver to bring him to the Garden, to relive a time when he still could've done right by Terry and the future could've still been a good one. Their "contender" conversation in the cab is one of the most remembered for a reason. It's rare to see so much history packed into such a small amount of screen time, but Brando and Steiger show us a whole relationship from start to brutal finish in a matter of minutes.
Eva Marie Saint is wonderful too. The lightness and goodness of her Edie being the perfect complement to Terry. Where Terry lives in a fog of denial and delusion, Edie truly believes that people are good. She's naive and he's simple and so they connect easily, both of them presenting the other something they haven't seen before. Even when she knows Terry had a part in her brother's death, she still finds him compelling, knowing there's more to him than the path of least resistance persona he tries to project.
Lee J. Cobb is a perfect choice for Johnny Friendly. His character towers over everyone, giving us a credible menace, believable as the force that keeps everyone living in fear for their lives. Able to be your best buddy one moment, and suggest you kill your brother in the next one, he's really the glue that holds everything together. Everybody hates him but no one wants to be on his bad side. His small army of thugs are a secondary menace to his own deep seated malice.
Karl Malden gives a passionate performance as Father Barry, the cheerleader/ trainer/ coach who has a knack for showing up at just the right time. We see a man consumed with his desire to clean up the waterfront to the point of mania. Being a priest, his addresses typically hinge on Christ references, but his personal commitment and outrage come through. He's willing to risk his own life, yet he's not above feeling frustration, which often happens when he tries to get anyone to share any information. His speeches to the workers, despite their passion, show us more than anything else that the workers fear is all but impenetrable. He's most useful in one on one scenarios, as we see when he makes his pact with Dugan, and in his interactions with Terry.
On The Waterfront is a great and powerful film, and aside from that, has significance from its place in Hollywood history. Elia Kazan presented it as a defense of his own "naming names" before HUAC and a condemnation of the Communist party. While this certainly lost him a few friends and colored the film a certain way, it doesn't change the fact that his motivation inspired him to create a great work of art. It's a beautiful film and a moving one. To me, the story behind the story doesn't take away from it's power. It's message could be applied to many situations even today, there are many who feel betrayed by a system that's larger than them but seems impossible to take down. It could probably use a few less references to "ratting" and "D and D." but it's not enough of a fault to really damage it. To enjoy the film, it's only necessary to believe that Johnny Friendly's outfit is totally corrupt, and this is illustrated well in the film. The viewer has no obligation to accept as a result that HUAC or their actions are acceptable or that Communists real or imagined fit the profile of Johnny Friendly. Is a strong case made for Terry Malloy to testify? Despite the inspiration, Terry Malloy is not Elia Kazan, so it's very easy to view the film on it's own merits.
I find it curious that even with Kazan's stated motivations, Terry's testimony lacked the impact you might expect at least from a film. Terry testified but Johnny didn't go away. Dugan testified and he got killed, as did Joey. It would be very easy to make an argument against talking from this film and certainly Father Barry's enthusiasm could stand a little scrutiny as he's essentially urging people to get themselves killed. But as he tells us, Father Barry is familiar with the idea of crucifixion. That here would be a heavy cost to do "the right thing." is perhaps more comfortable an idea to him than most. The idea of fighting the mob with religious faith seems like an odd choice of weapon, but then Father Barry's only function is to urge others on, so his sermons need only show a bigger picture than the insular world of the waterfront. Edie gives a more sensible suggestion, telling Terry they should leave. This would make sense, but not to Terry's pride and anger. Johnny killed his brother after all, and he feels like a fighter again. To not show up would be a loss.
Another inspiration for the story was a true account of a dock worker who with a priest's urging set out to take down a corrupt water front union. In the true account, the dock worker failed and in this film, except for the obligatory happy ending, we could as easily have ended up there. Terry's victory isn't knocking out Johnny Friendly, but managing a short walk after he's been worked over. Friendly isn't gone, and Terry's coworkers will in all likelihood do what they're told as they always have, especially if their lives or work are in jeopardy, which Friendly still has the power to do. Terry tells Friendly "You take the good goods away and the kickbacks, the shakedown cabbage and the pistoleros, and you're nothing!" Unfortunately, no one is taking those things away, except perhaps the Crime Commission, and their power seems severely limited. Short of killing everyone in Friendly's outfit, anything Terry can do would seem destined to fail.
But, since this is a film, Kazan can certainly pick a high moment for the ending and we can feel good for Terry and Edie and Father Barry and maybe even believe that things will be better at the waterfront. In the end it's not about the waterfront as much as it is about Terry trying to find himself a better way for himself. Personally I'd rather cheer from him trying to walk, than think of him hiding himself away from every disappointment he's learned to expect from his life. Even if it isn't realistic, it's good to see him finally win one and since it's a film I can hope his streak continues. At least he's not a bum anymore, even if his friends don't talk to him. And the viewers win too,because we get to see some of the best acting in history.
The film opens with Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), and a group of men exiting a meeting with Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) the head of the dockworker's union on the NY City waterfront. Of the group, everyone is wearing a suit except Terry, who's dressed in casual clothes. Friendly gets into his car with his men and he tells Terry, "You take it from here, slugger."
Terry leaves on foot and stops at an apartment building. He yells "Joey!" up at one of the windows until Joey appears. Terry shows Joey a pigeon and says it's one of his, but he found it in his coop. Joey tells Terry "I gotta watch myself these days. Know what I mean?" Terry offers to bring the pigeon up to the roof and Joey agrees to meet him there. Once Joey leaves the window to go up, we see Johnny Friendly's men on the rooftop waiting. Terry lets the pigeon go and walks away meeting up with his brother Charlie (Rod Steiger,) and a couple of Friendly's men on the ground.
We see Joey falling off the roof screaming. One of Friendly's men remarks "Somebody fell off the roof." Terry is surprised and says "I thought they were gonna talk to him and get him to dummy up." Charlie suggests "Maybe he gave them an argument."
Terry: I figured the worst they were gonna do was lean on him a little.
Charlie: Like I said, maybe he gave them an argument.
One of Friendly's men says Joey had been giving Friendly a lot of arguments lately. Terry says "He wasn't a bad kid, that Joey." Friendly's men call Joey a canary, joking that "he could sing but he couldn't fly." Charlie offers to buy Terry a drink, but Terry says he'll be by later.
A crowd gathers around Joey's body including his family and the local priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) The policeman at the scene suggest that he fell or "Maybe he was pushed." Joey's father, "Pop" (John F. Hamilton) encourages a woman to keep quiet when she blames Johnny Friendly." He says "If he took my advice, he'd still be alive." The police officer pushes for information but no one talks to him. Father Barry tells Joey's sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint) that he needs to talk to her. "Who'd want to kill Joey?" she says angrily and frantically removes newspapers placed over Joey's corpse, telling everyone to stay away.
Father Barry: Time and faith, Edie, time and faith.
Edie: Father, my brother's dead and you talk about time and faith!
He tries to calm her down, telling her he'll be in the church. She angrily responds "Whoever heard of a saint hiding in a church? I want to know who killed my brother!"
Terry heads to the bar, still unsettled by Joey's death. We see Johnny Friendly in the backroom. He takes a payoff from someone while he watches a boxing match. Friendly complains "Ain't nobody tough anymore." Terry approaches him and Friendly greets hims as "slugger" mimicking some boxing moves. Friendly gets some more payments and hands a stack of bills to Terry telling him to count them as "it develops your mind." The dock foreman, Big Mac (James Westerfield) quips "What mind?" and Friendly says "Shut up, I like the kid." Terry loses count prompting another joke, and Charlie takes over. Friendly asks why Terry never got an education like his brother Charlie. Friendly notices that Terry isn't quite himself, and launches into a speech about how tough it was to become the head of the union, mentioning an old fight injury. He mentions how in addition to dues he takes a couple bucks from everyone to make sure they get work, as well as many other payoffs. Charlie defends the idea saying "Why not? If we can get it? We're entitled to it." He mentions that he wasn't about to lose it all due to "one little cheese eater, that Doyle fella, squealing to the crime commission." Terry agrees, but explains that he wishes he'd been told what would happen. Charlie announces that the payoff he'd been counting is short. Friendly approaches, Skins, the man short on the payoff and demands the rest, beating him up and searching his clothes. He then kicks him out of the office and tells him "You don't work here no more." Wanting to make sure Terry feels better, Friendly gives him some cash "from your Uncle Johnny" and instructs Big Mac to keep Terry in one of the easier dock jobs. Charlie calls after Terry "Hey! You've got a real friend here. Don't forget it." Friendly adds "How should he forget it?" Terry says "Yeah. thanks, Johnny." and takes off.
The next day we see a kid running along rooftops. He finds Terry sitting near a pigeon coop and tells him he was going to feed them. Terry says he already did as he was up early anyway. He mentions that the pigeons "have it made." and cautions the kid not to spill any water so the pigeons don't catch cold. Terry then heads for the docks where many men are gathered looking for job assignments. Some of them discuss Doyle and how he couldn't keep his mouth shut. Pop shows up for work although his coworkers tell him to take the day off. He explains that he has to pay for a funeral. One of the men jokes that Johnny Friendly will pay for it, upsetting one of Friendly's enforcers who's passing by. Joey's dad gives a friend Joey's windbreaker as his own is in bad shape.
We see Father Barry arrive at the docks. A pair of men from the Waterfront Crime Commission shows up looking for Terry. When Terry doesn't step up, one of the men reveals that he recognizes him from a boxing match a while ago. The agent tells Terry that they want to ask him some questions as they're planning a public hearing "I don't know nothing." Terry tells him."You haven't heard the questions." the second agent ads. Terry insists "But I don't know nothing!" The first agent tells him "There's a rumor that you were one of the last people to see Joey Doyle alive." He assures Terry that they're not accusing him of anything. The second agent says "We just want to ask you some questions about some people you may know."
Terry: People I may know? You better get outta here, Buster. They leave but assure Terry "We'll be seeing you again.
We see Friendly's banker, J.P., in the crowd. The men complain that "If we don't borrow we don't work." Pop tells him "You rot in hell, J.P." We see Edie walking nearby. Big Mac blows a whistle and the men gather. Edie meets up with Father Barry. She apologizes for being angry with him. He tells her that she was right, and he's decided to come down to the docks to see what he can do. Big Mac starts handing out tags which mean the men who have them will work. Some of the snubbed men get angry and the crowd gets out of hand. Big Mac throws the tags into the crowd causing the men to fight over them. Edie sees her father and the ground and almost rushes over to help him although she's stopped by Father Barry. Terry picks up one of the tags that was near Pops, and Edie tries to get it from him, although he makes a game of it. Someone points out that she's Joey's sister and Terry gives her the tag. She presents it to her Dad and he takes it telling her to go home.
Father Barry asks the remaining men what they do now. They tell him "Like Big Mac said, Come back tomorrow." One man mentions having showed up for five days and not working once. Father Barry asks them "Is this all you do. just take it like this? What about your union? No other union in the country would stand for a thing like this." They tell him that's just how it is since Johnny Friendly took over and there's no "safe place to talk without getting clobbered." Father Barry tells them "The church."
We see Terry inside reading in a loft. Charlie finds him amd tells him they have an extra detail for him. They want Terry to check out the meeting at the church and turn in the names of everyone there and what happens. Terry doesn't like the idea telling him he'd feel like a stoolie. Charlie tells him "a stoolie is when you rat on your friends. Johnny wants a favor. Don't think about it. Do it."
Later, we see Father Barry and Edie with Pop and a handful of workers in the church. He's surprised there aren't more men, but encourages them that even a handful can change things. He tells them "Isn't it simple as one, two, three? One, the working conditions are bad. Two, they're bad because the mob does the hiring. And three, the only way we can break the mob is to stop letting them get away with murder." Terry comes into the meeting late and sits in the back separate from the group. Father Barry asks "Who killed Joey Doyle?" Nobody says a word. He says that he has a hunch they all know something about it, and asks them how they can call themselves Christians and protect the murder with their silence. Edie looks into the group but the men can't look her in the eye. Someone asks "Who asked him here?" referring to Terry. Terry doesn't respond until they point out that he's Charlie's brother and he tells them to leave Charlie out of it. Father Barry pleads with them to say something, but one of the men, Dugan explains that they're "D and D" meaning Deaf and Dumb. Someone throws a rock through the church window and thugs outside start hitting the building with sticks. Father Barry tells them to go home in pairs. Terry keeps Edie from running out the front door, bringing her upstairs while everyone else runs down. As the men leave they're attacked with sticks. Pop runs around looking for Edie. Edie asks about Pops, but Terry tells her "He's an old man, they won't hurt him."
Father Barry grabs some attackers and starts kicking them out. He runs into Dugan who's badly beaten and asks "Are you still D and D? Do you still call it ratting?" Dugan: Are you on the level?
Father Barry: What do you think?
Dugan: If I stick my neck out and they chop it off. would that be the end of it or are you willing to go all the way?
Father Barry: Down the line!
Dugan: They'll put the muscle on you too, turned around collar or no turned around collar.
Father Barry: Listen to me. You stand up and I'll stand up with you.
Dugan: Right down the wire?
Father Barry: So help me God.
Terry and Edie have walked into town safely. She tells him she can make it home alright. Edie asks him, "Which side are you with?" He answers, "Me? I'm with me, Terry." A man approaches and asks Terry for a dime. He tells the man to beat it, and he then asks Edie, who looks for a dime.He recognizes Edie as Joe's brother. He says "Your brother was a saint. he's the only one that ever tried to get me compensation. [looks at Terry] You remember, Terry. You were there that night..." Terry shoves him away throwing some change on the ground. He tells him "There's some change. Go have a ball." The man replies "You don't buy me. You're still a bum." Edie talks about how everyone loved Joey and asks Terry how well he knew him. "well, he got around." Terry answers. She asks what the man was talking about, but Terry tells her not to pay any attention. He asks Edie about her school, assuming she wants to be a nun as it's a Catholic run College. She tells him she wants to be a teacher.
Terry: That's very good. You know, personally I admire brains. My brother Charlie is a very brainy guy. He had a couple years of college.
Edie: It isn't just brains. It's how you use them.
Terry remembers seeing her eight years ago. He says "You had wires on your teeth, and glasses. You was really a mess."
Edie: I can get home all right now. Thanks.
Terry: Listen, don't get sore. I'm just kidding you a little bit. I just mean to tell you that you grew up very nice.
Terry: You don't remember me, do you?
Edie: I remembered you the moment I saw you.
Terry: By the nose, huh? Well some people just got faces that stick in your mind.
Edie: I remember you were in trouble all the time.
Terry: Now you got me. The way those sisters used to whack me, I don't know what. They thought they was gonna beat an education into me but I foxed them.
Edie: Maybe they just didn't know how to handle you.
Terry: How would you have done it?
Edie: With a little more patience and kindness. That's what makes people mean and difficult. People don't care enough about them.
Terry: What are you kidding me? I better get you home. There's too many guys around here with only one thing on their minds. Am I gonna see you again?
Edie: What for?
Terry: I don't know.
Edie: I really don't know.
Terry: Come on. [walks toward her house]
Edie gets home and Pops has her bags packed and gives her a ticket back to St. Anne's. She says she isn't ready to go back. Pops isn't happy that she was walking with Terry and asks "Do you know who Terry Malloy is?" Edie asks "Who is he, Pop?"
Pop: He's the kid brother of Charley the Gent, who's Johnny Friendly's right hand and a butcher in a camel hair coat.
Edie: You trying to tell me Terry is too? He tries to act tough but there's a look in his eye.
Pop: Yeah, a look in his eye. Hold your hats brothers. Here we go again. You think he's one of them cases you're always dragging into the house and feeling sorry for like that litter of kittens you brought in. The only one you wanted to keep had six toes and is cockeyed to boot. look at him. [points to their cat]
Edie: He said he wants to see me again.
Pop shows her that one of his arms is longer than the other and explains that he's worked for years so that she could be a teacher "or something decent." He tells her "I promised your Mom, Edie. Don't let her down."
She tells him she can't go back to school when things are so wrong, and needs to know who killed Joey.
Edie visits Joey's pigeon coop on the roof. She sees Terry on the next roof top at his own coop. She introduces him to the kid who helps with the pigeons, explaining that he looks up to him because he boxed pro for awhile. He tells Edie that he's been taking care of Joey's pigeons. Edie says "I wouldn't have thought you'd be so interested in pigeons."
Terry: I just go for it. You know this city is full of hawks? That's a fact. They hang around on top of the big hotels and they spot a pigeon in the park. Right down on them.
Terry shows her his pigeons and they discuss pigeon behavior. Edie remarks "Even pigeons aren't peaceful." Terry tells her "They get married just like people...And they stay that way until one of them dies." She appreciates that idea. Terry sends the kid somewhere else so he can be alone with Edie. He asks her to have a beer with him and she agrees. They go to the bar and she asks him about being a prizefighter.
Edie: how'd you get interested in that?
Terry: I had scrap all my life I might as well get paid for it. When I was a kid, my old man got bumped off and, never mind how. Then they stuck Charlie and me in a dump they called a children's home. Boy, that was some home. Anyhow, I ran away from there and I fought in the club smokers and Johnny Friendly bought a piece of me.
Edie: Bought a piece of you?
Terry: Yes. Then I was going pretty good for awhile. And after that, Well, I don't know. What do you really care? Am I right?
Edie: Shouldn't everybody care about everybody else?
Terry: Boy, what a fruitcake you are.
Edie: I mean, isn't everybody a part of everybody else?
Terry: And you really believe that drool?
Edie: Yes, I do.
Shots arrive and Terry shows her how to drink one.
Terry: Wanna hear my philosophy of life? Do it to him before he does it to you.
Edie: I never met anyone like you. There's not a spark of sentiment or romance or human kindness in your whole body.
Terry: What good does it do you besides get you in trouble?
Edie: And when things and people get in your way, you just knock them aside. Get rid of them. Is that your idea?
Terry: Don't look at me when you say that. It wasn't my fault what happened to Joey. Fixing him wasn't my idea.
Edie: Who said it was?
Terry: Well, everybody's putting the needle on me. You and them mugs in the church and Father Barry. I didn't like the way he was looking at me.
Edie: He was looking at everybody the same way.
Terry: Oh yeah? Anyway, what's with this Father Barry? What's his racket?
Edie: His racket?
Terry: Yeah, his racket. Everybody's got a racket.
Edie: But he's a priest.
Terry: Are you kidding? So what? That don't make no difference.
Edie: You don't believe anybody. Do you?
Terry: Listen, down here it's every man for himself. It's keeping alive, standing in with the right people so you get change jingling in your pocket.
Edie: And if you don't?
Terry: if you don't? Right, down.
Edie: It's living like an animal.
Terry: All right. I'd rather live like an animal than end up like...
Edie: Like Joey! Are you afraid to mention his name?
Terry: no. What do you keep harping on that for? Come on, drink up. You gotta have a little fun out of life.
Terry offers to stick some music on, but Edie is very upset. He asks her what's the matter and she says "Help me if you can, for God's sakes." He tells her he'd like to but he can't do anything. She loses interest in the drink and starts to leave. He asks her not to. She explains that she isn't upset with him, knowing he'd help if he could. He follows and cheers her up by getting her to dance. Their fun is interrupted when on of Friendly's men tells Terry the boss wants to see him. He says "Something's gone wrong. he's plenty hot." Terry insists that he has to see Edie home first. Edie demands to know who the guy was. Terry tells her "You gotta quit trying to find out about Joey. it ain't safe." As they talk the men from the Crime Commission approaches Terry and serves him with a subpoena, requiring him to be at the State House, 10:00 on Friday morning. The agent tells Terry he can bring a lawyer and tells him he's protected by the Constitution against incriminating himself. Terry asks "You know what you're asking me to do?" The second agent says "All we want you to do, Mr. Malloy, is tell the truth." Edie asks him what he'll do. Terry tells her "I ain't gonna eat cheese for no cops, that's for sure." He crumples the subpoena and throws it on the ground. Edie asks him "It was Johnny Friendly who had Joey killed, wasn't it? He had him killed or had something to do with it, didn't he? He and your big brother, Charlie? You can't tell me, can you, because you're part of it. Because you're as bad as the worst of them. Tell me the truth, Terry." He tells her to lay off. She says "Pops said Johnny Friendly used to own you. I think he still owns you. No wonder everybody calls you a bum."
Terry: Don't say that to me, Edie. Don't say that to me now.
Edie: No wonder.
Terry: I'm only trying to help you out. I'm trying to keep you from getting hurt. What more do you want me to do?
Edie: Much more. [starts walking away]
She leaves Terry standing there despite his protests.
As Terry is walking down the street, a car pulls up next to him. Johhny Friendly gets out. Terry says he was on his way over. Johnny asks about the church meeting. Terry says nothing happened and the priest did all the talking. Friendly tells him that Dugan met with the Crime Commission and talked. He shows Terry a copy of Dugan's testimony. Terry says, "I knew he had the guts, but I never..."
Friendly: Guts! WHy that crummy pigeon. He ought to have his neck wrung. [Looks at Charlie] That's what we get for getting mixed up with this punch drunk brother of yours. He was alright hanging around for laughs but this is business. I don't like anyone goofing off.
Terry: I wasn't goofing.
Charlie: [grabs Terry's shirt] What are you going around with his sister for?
Terry: I'm not...
Charlie: Just shut up! Look, Johnny. It's just that the Doyle broad has got him so he doesn't know where his feet is. It's an unhealthy relationship!
Friendly: [points at Terry] Get rid of her, unless you're both tired of living.
Friendly explains to Charlie that they have to do something about Dugan. He tells Terry he lost his cushy job and assigns him the hardest one. Friendly and Charlie take off, Charlie telling him to "Wise up." as they leave.
We see Terry at work the next day and Dugan as well, working alongside Pops, loading whiskey to be lifted out of the hold by a winch. Dugan acts natural as if nothing's happened. Terry approaches Dugan and tells him he wants to see him. Dugan asks him why he's there, suggesting he's watching them for Johnny Friendly. Dugan pushes him away. Big Mac nods to the winch operator when Dugan is beneath a load being lifted out. The operator lets the cases fall, crushing Dugan as everyone including Terry watches.
Father Barry is called in to give Dugan his last rites. He tells the men that he promised Dugan to stand up with him, if he'd stand up to the mob. He says, "Some people think the crucifixion only took place on Calvary. They better wise up. Taking Joey Doyle's life to stop him from testifying is a crucifixion. And, dropping a sling on Kayo Dugan because he was ready to spill his guts tomorrow, that's a crucifixion! And every time the mob puts the crusher on a good man, tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen, it's a crucifixion! And, anybody who sits around and lets it happen, keeps silent about something he knows has happened, shares the guilt of it just as much as the Roman soldier who pierced the flesh of our Lord to see if he was dead." A man throws something at Father Barry and someone yells at him to get back to church. Father Barry says "Boys, this is my church! And, if you don't think Christ is down here on the waterfront, you've got another guess coming!" Tillio, one of Friendly's men throws a piece of fruit at him, telling him to get out. Terry tells Tillio to stop. Tillio asks "Whose side you're on, boy?" Terry says to let him finish. Father Barry continues "Every morning when the hiring boss blows his whistle, Jesus stands alongside you in the shape up. He sees why some of you get picked and some of you get passed over. He sees the family me worrying about getting their rent and getting food in the house for the wife and kids.He sees you selling your souls to the mob for a days pay." We see Friendly looking on with one of his thugs, who tosses a can at Father Barry, hitting him in the head." Pop speaks up saying "The next bum that throws something deals with me! I don't care if he's twice my size."
Father Barry goes on "What does Christ think of the easy money boys who do none of the work and take all of the gravy? And how does he feel about the fellas who wear $150.00 suits and diamond rings on your union dues and your kickback money [We see Charlie watching overhead] And how does he who spoke up without fear against every evil, feel about your silence?" Tillio tells him to shut up and brags to Terry "Just watch this!" Terry hits Tillio in the face as everyone watches including Charlie and Johnny Friendly. Father Barry continues "You want yto know what's wrong with our waterfront? The love of a lousy buck. It's making love of a buck the cushy job, more important than the love of man! [Edie looks at Terry who is looking uncomfortable] It's forgetting that every fella down here is your brother in Christ! But remember, Christ is always with you. Christ is in the shape up, he's in the hatch, he's kneeling right there beside Dugan. And he's staying with all of you. 'If you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me.' And what they did to Joey, and what they did to Dugan, they're doing to you [pointing] and you, and you, all of you! And only you with God's help, have the power to knock them out for good. [looks down at Dugan] Okay, Kayo? Amen."
Everyone gets back to work. Edie pauses a minute and is gven Joey's jacket which Dugan was wearing. She looks at Terry a moment before leaving.
We see Edie on the rooftop clutching Joey's jacket. She calls out for Terry and finds him laying down. She gives him the jacket, mentioning that his is coming apart. She rests her head on his chest and then they kiss. We then find Father Barry at the church leaving after a service. Terry approaches him. He says "Remember what you said about Kayo Dugan and about keeping your mouth shut?"
Father Barry: I'm not hearing your confession. I'll dig it out for myself and use it where it'll do the most good. Take your turn, Father Gregory will hear you.
Terry: I don't want to talk to...
Father Barry leaves him there. Terry considers a minute and then follows, although Father Barry keeps brushing him off, not interested in talking to him. Finally Terry says "Wait a minute. I'm the one who set Joey Doyle up for the knock off!" The Father stops and walks up to Terry looking him in the eye. He says "Take a walk with me kid and give it to me straight. There's nothing I haven't heard. Come on." They walk off together. He explains that he didn't know they were going to kill him. He says he wanted to tell Edie as "She's the first nice thing that ever happened to me." He asks Terry what he'll do about it, and the Commission. Terry explains the loyalty issues, with Charlie being involved and Johnny Friendly treating him well, taking him to ball games when he was a kid.
Father Barry: Ball games. Don't break my heart. I wouldn't care if he gave you a life pass to the polo grounds. So you've got a brother. Let me tell you something. You've got some other brothers getting the short end while johnny's at the polo grounds! Ball games! Listen! if I were you, I'd walk right...Never mind. I'm not asking you to do anything. Your conscience has gotta do the asking."
Terry: Conscience. That stuff can drive you nuts.
Father Barry: Good luck. [walks away]
Terry: [calling after him] Hey! Is that all you gotta say?
Father Barry: [waves terry over] Come here. [points at Edie who's walking towards them on the street.] Edie called me this morning. She's coming here to talk to me. Come on. Why don't you tell her? huh? No curves.
Terry: Ok. Thanks.
Terry runs to meet Edie as Father Barry watches from a distance. Edie is shocked and hides her face in her hands. Most of Terry's confession is unheard due to a loud steam whistle in the background. She runs away horrified. We find the agents from the Crime Commission up on Terry's roof looking for him. Terry is alerted by the kids who help with the pigeons. He asks them if they think he should turn in people who killed a guy. They remind Terry that he started their gang. Terry confronts the agent who claims he's just resting. The agent asks him about an old fight. "Thought you were gonna take him that night. Man, he really dumped you." Terry replies "He dumped me, huh? What would you say if I told you I held that bum up for half a round?"
Agent: Yeah, I could see he was hurt.
Terry: What did you think I was doing with those combinations? Petting him?
Agent: Just couldn't finish him off, huh? WHy didn't you finish him off?
Terry: What are you talking about, finish him off? I was doing a favor for some pals of mine.
Agent: Favor? That's the way it was.
Terry: That's the way it was. If I'd have put him down, I'd have had a title shot. I was ready that night.
Agent: You sure looked it. That's when I figured it was all over.
Terry: It was all over except for the lousy bet. My own...
Agent: Yeah? Well I guess I better get going. Say, was that a hook or an uppercut you caught him with that first time?
Terry: i don't use no hooks. i was strictly a short puncher.
Agent: looked like a hook to me.
Terry: i had that bum all figured out. He had a good left hand. [starts simulating his moves] I let him tag me for a couple rounds. Just when he starts, he thinks he's getting cute, I step inside and jab with a left, with a right, with a left. I had him in my arms and from there we were just dancing.
Agent: I see.
Terry: And that's a fact. When those guys wanna win a bet, there's nothing they won't stop at.
We then see inside Johnny Friendly's waterfront office. It's reported to Johnny that Terry was seen talking with Edie. Charlie points out that it doesn't mean Charlie's going to talk. Friendly asks Charlie how they'll keep him from giving testimony. Charlie explains that Edie and Pops have Terry messed up. Friendly tells him "I ain't interested in his mental condition. All I want to know is, is he D and D or is he a canary?"
Charlie: I wish i knew.
Friendly: So do I, Charlie. For your sake.
Charlie: What do you want me to do?
Friendly: It's simple. drive him out to this place we've been using. Try to straighten him out o the way. If you don't, give him to Gerry G.
Charlie: You can't do that! Maybe the boy is out of line. But he's just a confused kid.
Friendly: Confused kid!? First, he crosses me in public. Gets away with it.Then the next joker. Pretty soon I'm just another fella around here!
Charlie: Johnny, I can't do that.
Johnny: Then don't.
Everyone in the room starts talking about sports. Charlie starts up again "Johnny, he's my kid brother."
Johnny: That's for you to figure out. You can have it your way or you can have it his way, but not both ways. Okay, on your horse. Deep thinker.
We see Charlie leaving alone and then we see him in back of a taxi, letting Terry in with him. Terry tells him he's been wanting to talk to him.
Charlie: Listen, the grapevine says you got a subpoena.
Charlie: The guys know you well enough to know you're not a cheese eater, but they think you shouldn't be on the outside so much, be on the inside, have a few things working for you down at the docks.
Terry: A steady job, a couple extra potatoes, that's all I want.
Charlie: That's great when you're a kid, but you're pushing 30, slugger. It's time to think about getting some ambition.
Terry: I always figured I'd live a bit longer without it.
Charlie: Maybe. Look there's a boss loader slot open on the new pier we're opening up. It pays six cents on every hundred pounds that goes in or out and you don't have to lift a finger. That's two, three, four hundred dollars a week. Four hundred dollars a week just for openers.
Terry: I get all that dough for not doing nothing?
Charlie: You don't do anything and you don't say anything. You understand?
Terry: There's more to this than I thought, Charlie. I'm telling you there's a lot more.
Charlie: You're thinking of testifying against some people we know?
Terry: I don't know, Charlie. I'm telling you I don't know. That's what I wanted to talk to you about.
Charlie: Listen Terry, you know how much those piers are worth that we control through the local?
Terry: I know that.
Charlie: ALright, you think Johnny'll jeopardize the whole set up for one rubber lipped ex tanker who's walking on his heels?
Terry: Don't say that. Been better.
Charlie: That's not the point!
Terry: I could've been a whole lot better, Charlie!
Charlie: The point is, we don't have much time!
Terry: I'm telling ya, I haven't made up my mind yet!
Charlie: Well, make up your mind before we get to 437 River Street! [sits back]
Terry: [looks around considering] Before we get to where, Charlie? [stares at Charlie, who won't look at him] Before we get to where?
Charlie: [Grabs Terry's shirt.] Listen to me, Terry! [Pulls the gun out from his coat and points it at Terry's belly] Take the job! Just take it! No questions. Take it! [Terry looks at the gun shaking his head.] Terry, take this job. Please!
Terry: [shaking his head] Charlie...
Charlie: Please take it.
Terry: [puts his hand over the gun] Charlie, [shakes his head, Charlie puts the gun away] Oh Charlie, wow.
Charlie: look, I...Look, kid...How much you weigh, son? When you weighed 168 pounds, you were beautiful. You could've been another Billy Conn. That skunk we got you for a manager. He brought you along too fast.
Terry: It wasn't him, Charlie. It was you. Remember that night in the Garden when you came down to my dressing room and said "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that?"This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.
Charlie: I had some bets down for ya. You saw some money.
Terry:You don't understand. I could have had class. I could have been a contender. i could have been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you Charlie.
Charlie: Okay. Okay. I'll tell them I couldn't find you. Ten to one, he won't believe it. Here [hands Terry his gun] You take this. You're gonna need it. [yells up to the taxi driver] You! You pull over!
We then see Charlie in the car by himself. He tells the driver "Take me to the Garden." The driver looks upset. As Charlie lays down to rest, he drives into a garage and we see one of Friendly's thugs closing the door behind the car.
We see Edie at her place when Terry knocks on the door. She talks through the door telling him to stay away. She locks it and turns out the light ignoring him. Terry persists, breaking the door open. He says he won't do what she wants. She tells him to let his conscience tell him what to do. Terry says "Shut up about that conscience, that's all I've been hearing!" She tells him to stay away, but he says "Edie, you love me."
Edie: I didn't say I didn't love you. I said stay away from me!
Terry: I want you to say it.
Edie: Stay away from me!
They struggle a bit. he kisses her and she calms down. Outside on the street some calls out for Terry, telling him his brother is down there and wants to see him. He looks out the window but no one's there although they keep calling him. He tells Edie that he thinks Charlie's in trouble and heads downstairs. Edie watches out the window and then follows him. A neighbor downstairs tells Edie "That's the same way they called Andy, the night I lost him." She runs after Terry and we see a car turn it's headlights on while Terry turns around towards Edie. Terry notices a truck coming up behind Edie and runs to get her out of the way. Forced into a tight alley, he breaks a door so they can duck inside. As the truck passes, he sees Charlie pinned to a wall outside. He investigates and finds Charlie is dead and hung by his coat from a hook they use at the docks. Terry takes him down and tells Edie "They got Charlie." Edie suggests that they go away. Terry says "I'm gonna take it out on their skulls." He pulls out the gun and repeats it to Charlie. Edie pleads with him, but he tells her to get Father Barry for Charlie. She pleads with him, but he asks her to stay with Charlie until the Father arrives.
Terry walks into the bar looking for Friendly but they tell him he's out. He checks the back room anyway but doesn't find him. The bartender advises him to go home. Tillio and another thug arrive and then backs off seeing the gun. Terry tells them to sit down. Father Barry comes in. Tillio attempts to duck out, but Terry tells him to stay there.
Terry: What do you want?
Father Barry: Your gun.
Terry: Go and chase yourself.
Father Barry: Come on. Give me the gun.
Terry: You go to hell.
Father Barry: What did you say?
Terry: Go to hell.
Father Barry [punches Terry knocking him across the room.] Sorry, let me help you up there.
Terry: Get your hands off me!
Terry still has the gun but everyone has left the bar.
Terry: Now what am I gonna do?
Father Barry: YOu wanna be brave?
Terry: it's none of your business!
Father Barry: You want to fire lead into another man?
Terry: Mind your own business!
Father Barry: Firing lead into another man's flesh isn't being brave!
Terry: it's none of your business!
Father Barry: You want to hurt johnny Friendly? You wanna fix him? Your eally wanna finish him?
Terry: What do you think?
Father Barry: For what he did to Charlie and a dozen other men who are better men than Charlie? Then don't fight him like a hoodlum, because that's what he wants. He'll hit you in the head and plead self defense. You fight him in the court room tomorrow with the truth, as you know the truth. Now you get rid of that gun, unless you haven't got the guts, and if you haven't then hold on to it.
Father Barry orders a beer and one for Terry. Terry has his beer and throws his gun at a picture of Johnny Friendly, breaking the picture glass.The next morning in court, Friendly's accountant claims they were robbed and all their financial records were stolen. We see that Friendly and all of his officers are present. Also watching are Father Barry, Edie and Pops.Malloy is called as a witness. He tells them all the facts about Friendly having Joey murdered. The Crime Commission agents watch, very pleased. Friendly is called up after Terry and as they pass each other, Friendly threatens Terry, saying "You just dug your own grave, don't fall in. You're dead on this waterfront and every waterfront from Boston to New Orleans. You don't drive a truck or cab. You don't push a baggage rack. YOu don't work no place! You're dead!" HE tries to start towards Terry but is restrained.
After court, cops follow Terry, but he tells them to lay off as they "make me feel like a canary." Terry notices the cab driver who drove him and Charlie the night Charlie died running down the stairs as he goes up. Edie is waiting for him with coffee. SHe tells him it's all over. Terry says "My friends don't want to talk to me." Edie asks if they're really his friends. Terry tells Edie he'll see her later and goes to check on his pigeons. One of the kids who helps him runs away. As Terry finds a dead pigeon, the other kid yells "A pigeon for a pigeon." and also runs off. Edie has followed him to the roof, as he discovers that all the pigeons are dead. Edie tells him he should leave as the waterfront is no place for him now. He doesn't answer, but gets up. Edie says "You're going down there? Just because John Frinedly warned you not to, you're going down there. You think you gotta prove you're not afraid of them or something! Go ahead! Get it over with! Go down to the shape up and get yourself killed! What are you trying to prove?"
Terry: They always said I was a bum. Well, I ain't a bum, Edie. Don't worry, I'm not gonna hurt nobody. I'm just gonna go down there and get my rights.
Terry walks into the group of men waiting for work. Big Mac blows the whistle and says "Alright, everybody works today. Everybody eyes Terry. Terry looks at Friendly's office. Tillio, looking out the window offers
to get rid of Terry. Friendly tells him they'll wait until they're off the front page. Terry stands alone as everyone else has been assigned a job. Big Mac tells him "Where are your cops? You're gonna need 'em." Big Mac makes a point of taking a homeless man off the street, rather than Terry. He tells him "You want more of the same? Come back tomorrow." In Friendly's office, Tillio pulls out his gun and tells Friendly he hopes Terry comes down. Friendly takes everyone's guns away and tells him that due to the Sullivan Law they'll be on them for the smallest infraction. Terry walks down to the office as a large group follows. He yells at Friendly to come out. Friendly stands just inside his door and tells Terry "You know the trouble with you? You think it makes you a big man if you give the answers. At the right time I'll catch up with you. Be thinking about that. Now, beat it. Don't push your luck.
Terry: Wait a minute, you! You take those heaters away and you're nothing! You know that?
Friendly: You'll talk yourself into the river.
Terry: You take the good goods away and the kickbacks, the shakedown cabbage and the pistoleros, and you're nothing! YOur guts is all in your wallet and your trigger finger!
Friendly: You ratted on us, Terry!
Terry: From where you stand maybe, but I'm over here now! I was ratting on myself all them years and didn't know it!
Friendly: Come on! [motions Terry towards him]
Terry: You give it to Joey, to Dugan, to Charlie, who was one of your own. You think you're God Almighty, but you know what you are?
Friendly: Come on! [motions Terry towards him]
Terry: You're a cheap, lousy, dirty, stinking mug! And I'm glad what I done to you! [turns to the crowd] You hear that? I'm glad what I done! I'm gonna keep on doing it till I get...
Friendly: Come on! [motions Terry towards him]
Terry goes for Friendly and the two start fighting. Friendly's thugs move in as men in the crowd discuss the situation saying "It'll be a massacre." Friendly's thugs work Terry over, when the dock workers decide to help. They stop when Friendly says "That's enough. Just let him lay there." Edie and Father Barry arrive and ask what happened although nobody says anything. They check on Terry who's badly beaten up. A warehouse owner shows up and asks who's in charge as the freight sitting there is costing them money. Friendly says he's in charge and blows the whistle for the men to get to work. The men don't respond, making Friendly angry. He starts shoving the towards their job. One of the men says "What about Terry? He don't work, we don't work." Friendly says "Work? He can barely even walk! You want to know who works? The ones I pick to work! Now, get going!" He starts shoving again. He grabs Pops and tells him he can work. Pops says "All my life, you pushed me around." Pops pushes Friendly into the water, causing everyone to laugh. Terry is having a hard time keeping his head up. Two of the workers say they're waiting for him to walk in. Father Barry encourages him telling him "Johnny Friendly's laying odds you won't get up." They help him stand and he starts walking, Father Barry making sure no one helps him. Terry takes his hook and walks for the warehouse door and the warehouse owner. The owner says "Let's go to work!" All the workers follow Terry inside. Friendly yells after them all, and Father Barry and Edie smile as work begins.