Study Guide

On the Waterfront What's Up With the Title?

What's Up With the Title?

On the Waterfront takes place…on a waterfront. There's your title explanation.

Snack time?

Oh, okay. We'll beef it up a little bit.

It's important that the movie takes place on a waterfront. After all, the East Coast waterfronts were sites of real mob domination and corruption…and the story On The Waterfront has its roots in reality. The title's saying, "Hey, let's check out something that's really going on, and enter this messed-up side of the world."

Originally, the screenwriter, Budd Schulberg, had just entitled the movie Waterfront. Switching it to On the Waterfront made it sound better, and also conveyed a sense of mission and direction. We're going to see what's going down.

Plus, what's happening on the waterfront isn't just human wickedness and corruption and murder—it's also courage. Terry's courageous walk happens on the waterfront, and so does Father Barry's stirring speech about Christ. The waterfront's a place of conflict; a place where human destinies are being shaped and characters are being tested.

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