On the Waterfront

Synopsis: Dockworker Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) had been an up-and-coming boxer until powerful local mob boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) persuaded him to throw a fight. When a longshoreman is murdered before he can testify about Friendly's control of the Hoboken waterfront, Terry teams up with the dead man's sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) and the streetwise priest Father Barry (Karl Malden) to testify himself, against the advice of Friendly's lawyer, Terry's older brother Charley (Rod Steiger).
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Production: Sony Pictures
  Won 8 Oscars. Another 21 wins & 9 nominations.
 
IMDB:
8.2
Metacritic:
88
Rotten Tomatoes:
98%
NOT RATED
Year:
1954
108 min
3,784 Views


FADE IN:

EXT—ESTABLISHING SHOT—WATERFRONT—NIGHT

Shooting toward a small building (Hoboken Yacht Club) set upon a wharf

floating about twenty-five yards off shore. A long, narrow gangplank

leads from the wharf to the shore, and on either side of the wharf are

large ocean liners which are being unloaded by arc light. In the B.G.

is the glittering New York skyline. A great liner, blazing with light,

is headed down river. A ferry chugs across to Manhattan. There is a

counterpoint of ships' whistles, some shrill, others hauntingly muted.

CLOSER SHOT—SMALL BUILDING—ON WHARF—NIGHT

It is the office of the longshoremen's local for this section of

waterfront. Coming along the gangplank toward the shore is an isolated

figure. He is TERRY MALLOY, a wiry, jaunty, waterfront hanger-on in his

late twenties. He wears a turtleneck sweater, a windbreaker and a cap.

He whistles a familiar Irish song.

A SERIES OF WALKING SHOTS—TERRY MALLOY—WATERFRONT—NIGHT

Reaching the shore and turning away from the union office. Passing the

burned-out piers.

Turning up a waterfront tenement street lit by a dim street lamp that

throws an eerie beam. He is holding something inside his jacket but we

cannot see what it is.

NOTE:
MAIN TITLES TO BE SUPERIMPOSED OVER THIS SERIES OF SHOTS

EXT—WATERFRONT STREET—NIGHT

Terry walks along until he reaches an ancient tenement where he stops,

hesitates, looks up toward the top of the building, and putting his

fingers to his mouth lets out a shrill, effective whistle that echoes

up the quiet street. Then he cups his hands to his mouth and shouts:

TERRY:

Hey Joey! Joey Doyle!

MEDIUM SHOT—TENEMENT WINDOW—NIGHT

The window of a third-story room, from Terry's POV. JOEY DOYLE, a

youthful, rather sensitive and clean-cut Irish boy, pokes his head out

the window.

JOEY:

Terry?

(then a little suspiciously)

What do you want?

REVERSE ANGLE—WATERFRONT STREET—NIGHT

TERRY:

Hey look-

He reaches into his windbreaker in a gesture associated with drawing a

gun from a shoulder holster. But instead he draws out a live racing

pigeon. As he does so the bird makes an effort to escape and flaps its

wings, but Terry subdues it expertly and holds it up for Joey to see.

TERRY:

(somewhat uneasily)

—one of yours. I recognized the band.

CLOSE—ON JOEY AT WINDOW—NIGHT

There is a fire escape in front of it.

JOEY:

Yeah? Must be Danny-boy. I lost him in the

last race.

TERRY:

He followed my birds into their coop.

Here, you want him?

JOEY:

(cautiously)

Well I got to watch myself these days.

Know what I mean?

TERRY:

I'll bring him up to your loft.

JOEY:

(some what reassured)

I'll see you on the roof.

Joey closes the window and turns away.

EXT—MEDIUM CLOSE—TENEMENT—ON TERRY —NIGHT

Tensely, as if going through something he wishes he could avoid, Terry

looks in the direction of the tenement stoop and nods. Now for the

first time we see two men standing there under the doorway so that Joey

was unable to see them from his window. When Terry nods they enter the

tenement hallway; he takes a few steps forward so as to be out of sight

from Joey's widow. Then Terry raises the pigeon into the air and,

inexplicably, releases it. As it wings out of sight he turns and starts

up the street in the direction from which he came, walking crabwise as

if trying to see the effect of what he has just done. A soddenly drunk,

one-armed longshoreman, MUTT MURPHY, staggers toward him, singing in a

hoarse voice... .

MUTT:

(as if it were a dirge)

Tippi-tippi-tim, tippi-tim,

Tippi-tippi-tan, tippi-tan...

(He stumbles into Terry.)

Gotta dime for a crippled-up docker?

TERRY:

Go on, beat it!

MUTT:

A dime, Terry, a dime for a cup of coffee?

TERRY:

Don't give me that coffee, you rummy.

Now blow!

MUTT:

Thanks for nothing, you bum.

With a certain battered dignity, Mutt moves off, picking up his song,

"Tippi-tippi-tan, tippi-tan... ." Terry takes an anxious glance back

toward the tenement.

EXT—TENEMENT ROOFTOP—NIGHT

In the B.G. on the far shore is the New York skyline. In the M.G. a

ship is being unloaded on this side of the river. In the F.G. is a coop

of racing pigeons. Joey comes out on the roof and looks around. The

door f rom the tenement stairway creaks open and Joey turns.

JOEY:

Terry?

There is no answer. Joey is surprised.

JOEY:

That you, Terry?

Two men step out upon the roof, their faces hidden in shadows. Joey

looks startled and retreats a few steps.

JOEY:

Where's Terry?

The two men (BARNEY and SPECS) advance, silently.

JOEY (continued)

He said he'd meet me up here.

CLOSE SHOT—JOEY—ROOFTOP—NIGHT

Now he realizes the intentions of the two men. He looks around for some

means of escape.

MEDIUM CLOSE—BARNEY AND SPECS—ROOFTOP—NIGHT

From Joey's angle. Moving in.

MEDIUM CLOSE—JOEY—ROOFTOP—NIGHT

He makes a wild dash for the fire escape which leads him to the roof.

But when he reaches it, another goon, SLIM, appears, cutting off this

escape.

LONG SHOT—ROOFTOP—NIGHT

Joey turns and runs along the edge of the roof, the illuminated skyline

in the B.G. He

disappears from view as if he has jumped o ff the roof.

MEDIUM SHOT—LOWER ROOFTOP LEVEL—NIGHT

This rooftop is one floor lower than the rooftops on either side of it,

forming a trough between the two and providing no further avenue of

escape for Joey. As Joey looks around desperately, Barney appears on

upper level and another goon, SONNY, appears on the other. Now Joey is

trapped between them. As they move forward he retreats backward toward

the edge of the roof.

JOEY (defiantly)

You want me to jump so it looks

like an accident?

The assailants close in silently. Joey gestures them on.

JOEY:

Come on. I'll take one of you with me.

The goons edge in still closer, poker-faced, knowing they have him.

EXT—FRIENDLY BAR—NIGHT

An old-fashioned corner saloon with swinging doors. Standing on the

corner, fl anked by a goon aptly named the TRUCK is CHARLEY, THE GENT,

Terry's older brother, rather handsome if a little too smooth, in his

late thirties, a snappy dresser in his camel hair coat and snap brim

hat. He is quick-witted and affable, more politician than mobster.

Terry enters to him.

CHARLEY:

(gently)

How goes?

TERRY:

(tightly)

He's on the roof.

CHARLEY:

The pigeon?

TERRY:

(resentfully)

Like you said. It worked.

TRUCK:

(to Terry, tapping his own temple)

That brother of yours is thinkin' alla time.

TERRY:

(tense)

All the time.

There is a short, shrill, almost human cry of a boat whistle. It

changes slightly in pitch and we are hearing an actual cry.

CLOSE SHOT—BODY OF JOEY

Hurtling off roof, with a bloodcurdling shriek.

INT—CLOSE SHOT—WOMAN AT WINDOW (MRS. COLLINS)

She screams.

EXT—FRIENDLY BAR—FAVORING TERRY—NIGHT

Worried as he begins to wonder what happened.

TRUCK:

I'm afraid somebody fell off a roof.

Terry stares at him. Longshoremen come running out of the bar toward

the sound of the scream. Terry has to struggle not to be carried along

with them. He works his way toward Charley, standing on the curb with

Truck, calmly watching the Friendly Bar customers excitedly running

past him. (Calls and commotion in the distance O.S.)

Rate this script:3.7 / 3 votes

Budd Schulberg

Budd Schulberg (March 27, 1914 – August 5, 2009) was an American screenwriter, television producer, novelist and sports writer. He was known for his 1941 novel, What Makes Sammy Run?, his 1947 novel The Harder They Fall, his 1954 Academy Award-winning screenplay for On the Waterfront, and his 1957 screenplay for A Face in the Crowd. more…

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