‘It was you, Charley’
SOMETIMES the written word, is actually the spoken word, or at least we recognise it as the spoken word in-so-far as we attach imagery to it, or associate it with a face, or a voice, or a particular scene from a movie or play, perhaps.
And, any of the above which may directly hold associations with the words, enhance and deliver, and make the great, greater still. Therefore, it is just ever so slightly possible, that, although the combination of visual, sound and word is truly fantastic, that one on its very lonesome, also stands up there in greatness. It remains the written word.
Shakespeare wrote many fine speeches, soliloquies and dialogues, fantastically put together combinations of mere words, but their deliveries sail each ship into harbour and knock us into adoring silence. Think of Macbeth’s speech before murdering his King, or any of the Romeo and Juliet balcony exchanges? Viola’s ‘my father had a daughter loved a man’ from Twelfth Night or, of course, several from Hamlet .
But today I have dipped into the golden age of movies and pulled out a plum! Mind you, all ages of cinema are golden, and all produce pure diamonds, surely? Old movie classics or modern day masterpieces. Certainly the last 40 years have thrown up a few magical orations, depending on your taste, and surely at least one of the following strikes a chord with each and every one of us?
Tom Cruise as wacky Frank TJ Mackey in Magnolia, Al Pacino as Tony d’Amato in Any Given Sunday or of course himself in Braveheart? Or Steve Buscemi’s rant as Mr Pink in Resevoir Dogs, or perhaps old con Morgan Freeman in Shawshank, ‘....you gotta get busy livin’ or get busy dyin...’
Anyway, back to our movie. ‘On The Waterfront’ from 1954, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger and Eva Marie Saint, still holds it’s place in the American Film Institute’s list of Top 20 movies of all time. It was nominated for a staggering 12 Oscars and came home with eight statuettes. Set in a New York/New Jersey dockland world of corruption, extortion, and racketeering, it is a no punches spared, raw, tough movie, rich in wonderful verbal exchanges dealing with unfulfilled dreams and opportu- nities, regrets and lost chances. The very laments of the exploited and cheated.
Karl Malden as the local priest, gives a spellbinding speech in tackling those that refuse to stand up to mob-led thuggery. And Eva Marie Saint spills her heart out as the girl who may have allowed her one shot at love to pass by, but the absolute masterclass of cinema and more so ‘words’ comes in what has become known as the ‘taxi scene’, (pictured below). Brando is the downtrodden ex-boxer, Terry, tackling, finally, his hood brother, Charley, played by Rod Steiger, who always exploited him. It simply does not get better than this. Readers, you have your Netflix homework for this week! Go watch it and listen to it.
Charley: Look, kid, I – how much you weigh? When you weighed one 168 pounds you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.
Terry: It wasn’t him, Charley, it was you. Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you 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.
Charley: Oh I had some bets down for you. You saw some money?
Terry: You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. It was you, Charley.