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A good-for-nothing sailor walks out on his young family leaving them to fend for themselves in the Liverpool slums. They make a go of their lives and the eldest daughter, now a woman, is none too pleased at her father's attempted return. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Waterfront is an urban drama that takes place in and around the dock area of the United Kingdom's busiest seaport city Liverpool. My own first exposure to Liverpudlian culture comes from the Beatles. If you're not a resident of the UK I suspect that would be the same for anybody.
In fact knowing what little I know about the hardscrabble backgrounds of the Fab Four as kids this was an interesting film to watch if for no other reason than to see from where they sprung. Waterfront was in fact shot on location in Liverpool, in areas I suspect that had been restored somewhat to something approximating what they looked like before the Blitz.
I also suspect that the Lennon, Starkey, Harrison, and especially the McCartney families lived in such an area as the McCabes did. The action takes place between the World Wars and starts in 1919 when Robert Newton just decides one day to not come back from a sea voyage, deserting wife Kathleen Harrison and the two daughters and a babe on the way that neither of them know about.
Newton's character Peter McCabe would have been at home in a Eugene O'Neill play. In fact I suspect if O'Neill were British he might very well have made Liverpool his place of literary inspiration. Newton stays away for 15 years and then returns and doesn't even try to contact his family. For the rest all we'll say is it turns out very badly for him indeed.
The daughters are played by Avis Scott and Susan Shaw and its Scott's character who narrates the story and in whose eyes we view the proceedings. Both get involved with different men, Scott with young Richard Burton who was billed sixth in the cast and Shaw with the smooth and caddish Kenneth Griffith. The son that Newton never knew he had is played by young Robin Netscher who is a brilliant student even if he does have to fight a lot over slurs about his father.
Newton turns in a restrained and believable performance of a man with wanderlust and a lack of responsibility. Some similarities in his character with Yancy Cravat from both versions of Cimarron. For those who expect the eye rolling overacting that Newton is known for, you'll be disappointed. Harrison also is good as the working class mother trying to do right by her kids.
This review is dedicated to the Fab Four of Liverpool who put the city on the map worldwide in so many cultures and languages. I suspect that if Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney ever catch this film, they'll rate it as an accurate portrayal of the old home town.
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