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On the Waterfront (1954)


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I nominated On the Waterfront for our top 100. Of all the Hollywood classics nominated, the two I most want to see on the top 100 are The Best Years of Our Lives and On the Waterfront. Some very good discussion has already occurred on Best Years on its own thread. As for On the Waterfront, it's a nice contrast to many of the other depictions of priests that are especially likely to be on our list. The others tend toward being consumed by the troubles around them, that they never have the opportunity to recognize the impact of their ministries (I think especially of Diary of a Country Priest and First Reformed). The priest in Rome, Open City knows he has an impact, but he must go to the most drastic extremes to make that happen, extremes that necessarily prevent the story from offering hope. Father Barry, on the other hand, gets to enjoy the fruit of his labor. I think of Brando's classic "I coulda been a contenda" speech as a conversion. Terry Malloy's words reflect the same type of inner change as anyone who sings "amazing grace that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost but now I am found." Because Father Barry preached that "Christ is on the waterfront," Terry can experience the Christ Father Barry preached, and Father Barry can experience the joy in sharing in that conversion.

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