“You don’t understand– I could-a had class.  I could-a been a contender. I could-a been somebody… instead of a bum, which is what I am– let’s face it.”

–Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront”

The masterful Marlon Brando, as longshoreman Terry Malloy, in 1954’s epic film “On the Waterfront.” –Image © Bettmann/Corbis.  Based on New York Sun reporter Malcolm Johnson’s 1949 Pulitzer Prize winning exposé on crime and corruption (Crime on the Waterfront), Kazan and cast’s gripping portrayal of blood, sweat, toil and tears on the docks is a gutsy Hollywood classic without peer. It was shot entirely on location in Hoboken, NJ– using the gritty Jersey streets and rooftops as its living, breathing sets– and the hard-as-nails local longshoremen for extras with real life experience and attitude.

Still one of the most powerful films Hollywood has ever put out– On the Waterfront caught a lot of Tinseltown’s elite off-guard when it ran off with 8 Academy Awards in 1955, including– Best Motion Picture (Sam Spiegel for Columbia Pictures), Best Director (Elia Zazan), Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Best Screenplay (Budd Schulberg), Best Supporting Actress (Eva Marie Saint), Best Art Direction (Richard Day), and Best Cinematography, B&W (Boris Kaufman).

It was a low-budget film, dealing with low-brow business– when Producer Darryl Zanuck was pitched the film he blasted it, saying “Who’s going to care about a bunch of sweaty longshoremen?” Even Marlon Brando wasn’t interested, but for personal reasons– Director Elia Kazan’s perceived act of betrayal against fellow artists by providing names to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952 (screenplay writer Shulberg was also an informer), left a bad taste in Marlon’s mouth. It was a stigma that Kazan would never fully shake. In fact, many would later believed upon its release that On the Waterfront represented a self-serving, cathartic expression for Kazan– a vain attempt to regain his lost dignity, and rebuff his attackers, Hollywood style. Were we watching Kazan, the shunned name-dropping director, making a case for himself vicariously through the heroic Brando as Terry Malloy, the underdog whistle-blower, onscreen?

Marlon Brando and Karl Malden in 1954’s “On the Waterfront.” Karl Malden’s “Father Barry” was based on Father John M. Corridan, a tough-talking Jesuit priest, who ran a Roman Catholic labor school on the Manhattan’s West Side and a very active “waterfront priest.” Budd Schulberg interviewed Father Corridan at length for his version of the “On the Waterfront” screenplay– the original had been written by Arthur Miller (called “The Hook”), and rejected by studio heads– causing a deep rift between Miller and Director Kazan.

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James Dean– from the haircut and setting, I’d say it’s during the filming of Rebel Without a Cause.


Dennis Hopper said that when he was around 18 or 19 years old,  he thought of himself as one of the best, our at least on his way to being one of the best, actors in the world.  That is, until he met James Dean. Watching Dean in action as they worked together in Rebel Without a Cause, Hopper witnessed Jimmy doing things so far over his head as an actor, that at the time he couldn’t even comprehend it.  He knew Dean knew something, had something, that he didn’t, and it made him special– set apart.


 Dennis Hopper, Natalie Wood and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.



Many racing legends and innovations have been born on the 160 square mile barren patch known as the Bonneville Salt Flats.  The 1950s in particular saw a revolution in the hot-rodding scene that became more aware of the importance of aerodynamics, weight and drag.  There were many that still fiercely held on to pure, brute horsepower over anything else– but many moved forward and a new dawn of streamlined dragster designs utilizing plastic and fiberglass bodies were born that changed the face of American racing forever.

The pics are truly amazing.   Great speed machines, as well as that classic 1950’s style– good grooming topped with denim, khakis, white tees, coveralls and awesome old-school racing graphics.  There’s also some great video w/insightful commentary at the end– if you can survive the xylophone noodling in the background… Definitely born too late, I was.  Photos by J R Eyerman.

Commonly called a “Lakester”– these open-wheeled, tank bodied dragsters were first raced on dry lake beds before the SCTA scene made the move to the Bonneville Salt Flats.  This one’s sportin’ a rear-mounted engine. 

The Bonneville Salt Flats speed meet, 1954.*

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