Study Guide

On the Waterfront Genre

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Crime Drama, Social Issue

When you have a movie about some joker who decided to name himself Johnny Friendly—and then kills people using Acme-approved methods like crushing them under crates of whiskey—you know this is going to be a crime drama.

Sure, it doesn't do the same deep-dive into the world of mobsters that, say, The Godfather does. But it also doesn't glorify mobsters. It shows how they control the lives of the people around them, and how people deal with being under the cigar-stained thumb of organized crime.

Which brings us to On The Waterfront's second genre: social issue movie. Because corrupt waterfront unions really were dominating the longshoremen on the East Coast. This isn't just a scenario that Kazan dreamed up: the mafia controlled a lot of these unions, especially in Hoboken.

Plus, Schulberg was inspired to write his script thanks to an expose written by the journalist Malcolm Jones. So, it's definitely grounded in a social conscience and in tackling real issues. (Source)

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