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But Kazan was equally capable of using purely filmic techniques, particularly when working with so talented a cinematographer as Boris Kaufman. Kaufman used contrasty black and white for the noir scenes, threats, attempted killing, or murder. But he deliberately grayed out the daytime scenes on the waterfront and in the city. He and Kazan were imitating the look the neo-realists achieved. But they were also suggesting, many critics have claimed, the moral ambiguity, the gray, of the situation. To be sure, Kaufman was aided by the actual fog and the cold winter air. Kazan was filming during one of the coldest winters New York had seen. His chief problem, he later said, was getting actors and extras to show up for work in that bitterly cold wind off the Hudson River.

Was ‘On the Waterfront’ Elia Kazan’s Apology to …

Anderson, Lindsay. “The Last Sequence of On the Waterfront.” Sight & Sound 24.3 (1955): 127-30.

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Change was an important theme for the immigrant Kazan. He went through many changes in his own life: different theater groups, disillusionment with his early political views, signing into the Hollywood system, going from one actor to another, different wives, many affairs, and so on. On the Waterfront is a movie about change: the change in Terry, in Edie, and in the longshoremen. And for change, the pigeons are again a symbol.

Waterfront – the port and the city

The film opens with Johnny Friendly and his henchmen leaving their waterfront headquarters, having given Terry his orders. Terry lures his friend Joey Doyle up to the roof from which they both fly pigeons. There, Joey is, to Terry’s surprise and regret, killed by other union goons. “I figured the worst they was gonna do was lean on him a little bit.”

Braudy, Leo, On the Waterfront. BFI Film Classics. London: British Film Institute, 2005.
waterfront essay conscience

Jefferson Flanders – The website of Jefferson Flanders

Selected Essays, Basic Books, 2013, p.97Dante Alighieri, XXXIV:139
["And thence came forth to see again the stars."]With exquisite irony, just as the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Empire fell in the years 1989-1991, American 60's radicals, who were essentially Communist sympathizers, were completing their takeover of American higher and other "circles," as the Soviets used to say, of the American intelligentsia.

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On the Waterfront offers no final answer. Historically, it took several years and elections for the docks to be cleaned up. As for the film, its ending is ambiguous. The last words of the film are Johnny Friendly's furious cry, "I'll be back! Don't you forget that! I'll be back!” I have no doubt he or someone like him will. We get a glimpse of the ultimate capitalist who is Friendly's boss, “Mr. Upstairs." The Crime Commission hasn't touched him. I don’t share the faith, often professed by our politicians, that democracy is the natural and inevitable order for human beings. As I look at Africa or the Middle East or Eastern Europe or East Asia, I see democratic revolutions that turn into tyrannies that thrive and reproduce. And I read the ending of On the Waterfront as equally pessimistic. Father Barry and Edie smile unconvincingly, but the door to the dock rolls down, locking the men inside as they go to work for a new boss and old conditions. The hawks don't go away, and the pigeons are always pigeons.


The easy problems have been solved

A&G Realty and Madison Hawk are currently accepting bids for the 25-acre waterfront campus in Oakdale, NY which houses six buildings including the former W.K. Vanderbilt Estate.