Saturday, November 13, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: #18 WGA Script of All Time - On the Waterfront (1954)

[Quick Summary: Under union pressure, Terry participates in the demise of a fellow longshoreman, Joey, who ratted to the Crime Commission.  Terry falls for Joey's sister, which gives him the courage to stand up to the union bosses.]

This is the Rocky movie before Rocky was Rocky.

Let's focus on Act 2 (in part because I'm struggling with my own Act 2).

In Act 1, Terry feels guilty for luring Joey out into the open so the other longshoremen could take him out. 

But why should he care?  It's no skin off his nose if Joey gets it for squealing.

Then in Act 2A, he encounters two things that makes his conscience grow:

a) He's cut to the quick by Father Barry's words that none of them are safe from the union bosses, even if they think they're protected; &

b) He falls hard for Joey's sister, Edie, who stirs him to be a better man.

At the midpoint, Terry is shaken because the scales have fallen off his eyes. Will he tell the Crime Commission about the waterfront corruption?

In Act 2B, it gets much worse. 

Another snitch is killed.  Terry confesses to Father Barry, who refuses to make the choice for him.  Terry tells Edie, who isn't any easier on him.

Then the last straw: Charley, his brother & protector, is sent to lure Terry out into the open...& Charley dies.

I like how 2A escalates with character complications. Terry can't avoid Father Barry's truth, nor his desire to protect Edie. He reaches the Point of No Return (midpoint) & can't go back to who he was.

In fact, 2B tests this new Terry.  He pushed & pushed & pushed & then, WHAM! He's ready to face down the bullies in Act 3.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Act 2 forces Terry to the limits.  He has to give up his flaw (selfishness) to survive. 

I learned that Act 2 should give my character no room to go anywhere except forward.

On the Waterfront (1954)
by Bud Schulberg

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