Last night, we watched Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando and Karl Malden. Budd Schulberg wrote the screenplay. Nominated for twelve Academy Awards, it won eight. The picture, Kazan, Brando, and Schulberg all won Oscars in 1954. Malden got snubbed.
While most people remember Brando lamenting that he “could’ve been a contender”, the other speech that sticks with me is given by Karl Malden, the tough Catholic priest named Pete Barry, whose parish ministers to the longshoremen of a Hoboken pier in the shadow of Manhattan.
Father Barry was inspired mostly by the Rev. John Corridan and Schulberg used a speech he once gave to the Knights of Columbus in the famous scene after a load of Irish whisky is dropped on a dockworker to keep him from testifying in a murder case.
It’s got the elements of Catholic social justice that anyone can appreciate. It’s a speech that’s worth hearing now, in light of corporate corruption and legislative ineptitude, complacency, and complicity.
They don’t write screenplays like this anymore. Kushner’s Lincoln doesn’t even come close.