Moving Pictures
Aug 06, 2009, 08:25AM

In praise of Karl Malden and Budd Schulberg

Together, they made one of my favorite-ever movie scenes. They will be missed.

Elia Kazan's movies are best known his then-novel employment of method acting, and the searing emotionalism of their performances. Watched now, however, they still seem brilliant, but also almost quaintly over-dramatic, hardly the live-wire displays they must have seemed in the 1950s.

Bud Schulberg, the novelist and screenwriter who wrote Kazan's On The Waterfront, and Karl Malden, who played the brave Father Barry, are both now dead. Waterfront is best known for Brando's immortal "I coulda been a contender" speech, which is as bluntly beautiful as its reputation asserts, but my favorite scene in the film is Barry's emotional speech at the docks, where he stands up against the mob rule in spite of the beer cans and eggs they hurl his way. This is the scene that inspires Brando's Terry Malloy to finally assert his own independence, and it also exhibits how much serious, learned craft informed Kazan's famously explosive style. Schulberg was a career writer for stage, screen, and page, and Malden's career (including an Oscar win for his role in Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire) speaks for itself. They were both legends, and they will both be missed.


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