The Docks of New York (1928)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  29 September 1928 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 2,571 users  
Reviews: 24 user | 37 critic

A blue-collar worker on New York's depressed waterfront finds his life changed after he saves a woman attempting suicide.


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Complete credited cast:
His Wife - Lou (as Baclanova)
Clyde Cook ...
Mitchell Lewis ...
Andy, the Third Engineer
Gustav von Seyffertitz ...


Bill Roberts works as a stoker on a coal-red barge. It's dirty, hard work and the men have to put up with a foreman, Andy, who seems to enjoy making their life miserable. When finally off the ship, Bill sees a young woman struggling in the water - apparently trying to commit suicide. He takes her to the Sandbar saloon, the sailors' hangout. The girl is Mae and Bill takes a shine to her but so does Andy. One thing leads to another and Bill asks her to marry him then and there. They don't have a marriage ;licence however and despite Bill promising to get one first thing the morning he decides to leave her behind. When she gets into trouble however, Bill steps in. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

29 September 1928 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Die Docks von New-York  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Donald Sosin composed his score in 2008 for the Ritorato Festival in Bologna with vocals composed and sung by Joanns Seaton. The 2010 score by Robert Israel includes such vintage songs as "East Side, West Side," "Only a Bird in a Gilded Cage," "Bicycle Built for Two," "Strawberry Blonde, and "After the Ball Is Over". See more »


Bill Roberts: Are you goin' to let me have a good time in my own quiet way, or must I take this place apart?
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Featured in Histoire(s) du cinéma: Les signes parmi nous (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

Another great silent from 1928
11 August 2004 | by (Seattle) – See all my reviews

One of the fascinating things about the movie to me was that, before he fetishized Dietrich, Sternberg's erotic sensibility seems broader. The opening scene of the men in the boiler room of a ship, wiping oil and coal dust from their gleaming skin, is one of the few times that he dwells on the male body that I can recall. And George Bancroft's swaggering, boisterous Bill is the most virile male I've seen in any of Sternberg's movies -- other than Bancroft as Bull Weed in UNDERWORLD from the year before. Of course, once Betty Compson splashes into the story, the camera loves her world-weary, wry beauty, and Sternberg constantly reminds us that she's naked under her clothing. As in his later, sound films, the settings are also sensual and full of complicated textures, reflections, and depth, with some great dockside shots in a foggy night.

The story itself is a fairly simple, but it has a warmth and genuine (or even sentimental) sympathy for love that is perhaps lost in the power struggles of Sternberg's Dietrich films. All four major characters are strongly drawn, rough-hewn, and well-played. Along with Bancroft and Compson, Olga Baclanova (of FREAKS fame) is also especially good as a sailor's bitter, abandoned wife. The dialogue in the intertitles is full of hard-boiled gems, as when the wedding ceremony is rendered, "If any of you eggs know why these heels shouldn't get hitched, speak now or forever after hold your trap!"

Kevin Brownlow says in THE PARADE'S GONE BY that THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK is Sternberg's finest film, and it may be so. I love the Dietrich films, and the bizarre SHANGHAI GESTURE, but DOCKS stands out for the sweet grittiness.

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