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"On The Waterfront" *spoiler alert* question (1 Viewer)

buttmunker

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Why was it necessary for "Charlie the Gent" to be knocked off, when it was the brother, Terry, they wanted to quiet?

I can see it as Smiley wanting Charlie the Gent's "full loyalty," even loyalty over the brother (Marlon Brando), and since Charlie chose his brother, that's why he was knocked off.

Otherwise, for all the usefulness Charlie provided over the years, I can't see the logic behind the knockoff. Surely Smiley knew that, if they knocked off Terry, Charlie would fall in line and not seek vengeance.

That was really the only part of the whole movie I didn't really like.
 

Lew Crippen

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I’ll try Mike, but to begin, you really can’t look at this movie as representing real life, as it is fundamentally a morality play (I’ll go into some other reasons in a bit).

To begin, within the context of the plot, Charley must die for several reasons that are crystallized in the famous scene in the taxicab. When Terry confronts Charley and makes him acknowledge that he is responsible for Terry’s status (I coulda been somebody instead of a bum—which is what I am. Let’s face it—it was you Charley)

Then Charley, who has been charged by the union bosses to keep his brother quiet, says, “OK, OK! I’ll tell him I couldn’t find you.

Charley gives Terry the gun for protection. Now even if you think that the gun would have done Terry no good, it is symbolic in the sense that Charley gives his protection to Terry. Now Terry is safe (in the context of the play) and Charley is vulnerable. And he knows it—this is emphasized with Charley’s ending comment in the speech above: Ten to one, he won’t believe it.

So Charley who betrayed his younger brother before the movie began, has redeemed himself by doing what he can to keep Terry safe, while at the same time exposing himself. And since he was ordered to keep Terry quiet (and has given up his safety) and did not, he will die. Of course in the context, this is the only way that Charley can be redeemed.

However the movie should also be looked at in another light. The director, Elia Kazan had testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee about leftists in the entertainment industry—and he was one of the first to name names. This, plus the blacklist had severely damaged his standing in the industry. So he made this film as a justification for testifying. As a further note the original screenwriter, Arthur Miller had refused to change any of the plot to accommodate HUAC, and his replacement, Budd Schulberg was more cooperative.

To many Terry is an alter ego for Kazan, and while Kazan was happy to have himself portrayed as being unjustly persecuted, perhaps he was not so willing to kill himself off.
 

Michael Reuben

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Lew, while I don't dispute the validity of any of that, I don't think it's necessary to explain Charlie's death at the most basic level of storytelling.

As presented in the film, the union is a criminal enterprise indistinguishable from the mob. All such enterprises depend on absolute loyalty, especially among the inner circle. Once Charlie's lack of loyalty was known, he became an unacceptable risk to the enterprise, and there was only one possible outcome.

M.
 

Lew Crippen

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No doubt you are correct Michael. As there are (at least to me) so many reasons that Charley should (or is going to) die, that I was not sure how to answer the question.

I’ll concede that seven paragraphs is perhaps an overlong explanation—compared to two sentences.

As an aside, I remember so clearly my parents watching the Army/McCarthy hearings on TV, plus becoming aware of HUAC a bit later in the 50s, that Kazan will always be a rat (albeit a talented one) and Schulberg a co-rat.

OTOH, Miller and Dalton Trombo showed everyone that one did not have to bow to the political pressure of the times—something to remember today.

{edited to correct Dalton's name--was I chagrined when I read Michael’s reply}
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What I get for speed writing.
 

Michael Reuben

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Totally off-topic:

Lew, when the documentary Trumbo hits DVD (which should be soon), do yourself a favor and order a copy. It brings the blacklist era to life more vividly than anything I've ever read or seen.

M.
 

Lew Crippen

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Thanks for the heads up Michael—and it looks like I managed to combine Dalton and Budd to come up with the name Tromberg.

:laugh:
 

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