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Inside Elia Kazan’s dockyard classic

‘Coulda been a contender”? Marlon Brando was so much more than that in “On the Waterfront” (1954), helping the groundbreaking urban drama dominate the Oscars 58 years ago this awards season. Elia Kazan’s portrait of corruption and blue-collar hardship on the New York docks tallied eight statuettes in all, including best picture, best director, best actor for Brando’s work as conflicted boxer-gone-astray Terry Malloy, and best supporting actress for Eva Marie Saint. (The film also boasted a trio of best supporting actor nominees: Karl Malden as the dock community’s two-fisted priest, Lee J. Cobb as its crooked union boss, and Rod Steiger as the big brother on the receiving end of Brando’s pugilistic lament.) Criterion handsomely remembers this gritty classic with a high-resolution Blu-ray restoration that lavishes nearly as much attention on supplements. Saint is featured in a new 10-minute interview, elegant as ever, reminiscing about Kazan’s way with actors, and the awkwardness of the HUAC backlash directed at him during the Oscars. And no, she says, the famous scene with rough-edged Terry playing with her character’s delicate glove wasn’t some calculated Method showcase, just a happy accident carried over from rehearsals. Another segment features Kazan devotee Martin Scorsese discussing the film’s role in steering Hollywood toward a new urban realism. Other extras include a production retrospective, film scholar commentary, and material on the real-life people and places behind the movie, from the model for Malden’s priest to a background player-turned-career longshoreman. (Criterion, $49.95)


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