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In this rarely seen black-and-white film, blacklisted director Martin Ritt (Nuts, Norma Rae) explores the complexities of racial brotherhood and tensions through the characters brilliantly played by Sidney Poitier and John Cassavetes. This emotionally charged drama follows the story of Axel (Cassavetes), a drifter newly arrived in New York City, who goes to work in the West Side Terminal as a porter and immediately makes the acquaintance of Tommy (Poitier), an experienced and cordial porter who is as generous with his friends as he is with his customers. Scenes such as the first meeting between Axel and Tommy's family, as well as the confrontations between Axel and his surly boss (Jack Warden), convey the confidence and compassion that steadily grows between the two men. As the two men confront societal prejudices, Axel is forced to examine himself and his community. In a film often compared to On the Waterfront, director Ritt displays an intuitive insight, simultaneously subtle and sharp.
Martin Ritt's first film offers an exceptional existentialist answer
(three years later) to Elia Kazan's more conservative "On The
Waterfront." While "Waterfront" benefited immensely from an
electrifying Marlon Brando, who inadvertently disguised Kazan's
offensive theme of trying to justify naming names (as Kazan did eagerly
before the House Un-American Activities Committee), "Edge of the City"
boasts a young John Cassavetes and an upstart Sidney Poitier daring to
confront issues that "Waterfront" failed to acknowledge, namely,
workers' rights and race relations.
"Edge of the City" boldly dives into this (then) unknown territory, and although the quite appealing black protagonist (Poitier) may seem a bit Hollywood simplistic, the courageous struggle against thinly-veiled bigotry and violence has hardly aged at all. One wonders how shocked initial 1957 moviegoers were at such a bold presentation of white-black relations (if some of the bigoted didn't leave the theater early, they must of left dumbfounded, if not offended).
The last reel of the film will still surprise audiences, as it refuses to sink into expected clichés, including those that tainted "Waterfront." While both films climax with a fight in front of stunned workers, director Ritt avoids the tiddy simplicity of Kazan's ratonalizied ending. Only the most jaded viewers will not realize "Edge" remains such a radical and entertaining film.
What's most disturbing about this lost classic: how it sadly stayed unavailable on any format, for reasons that remain quite cloudy until it surfaced in a Sidney Poitier compilation in late 2008. This film should be required viewing in high school or college history classes across the country, yet one can only find it on obscure late-night TV, if ever at all.
Alex North (John Cassavetes) has problems in relationship with his father
and flees home to join the army, from where he very soon deserts and comes
to New York intending to start a new life, using as an advantage the fact
that nobody knows about his past.
He finds a job at the Waterfront, where he meets Tommy Tyler (Sydney
Poitier) a lively young man, who is happily married and is a living contrast
to Cassavetes' sad and unhappy character. They very quickly become good
friends and Tommy does his best to help his friend. The only problem is that
their superior at work, a tough worker Charles Malik (Jack Warden) is sort
of envious of their friendship as well as Tommy's constant happy disposition
and success in personal life. He really manages to make their life difficult
when he comes to know the truth about Alex's past.
A good drama skillfully directed by Academy Award nominated director-producer Martin Ritt (The Hud) and featuring wonderful performances from Sydney Poitier and Jack Warden. 7/10
A skillfully directed film by Martin Ritt where a drifter and
anti-hero, John Cassevetes lands in N.Y. to escape a tragic incident in
his life, where he killed his brother in an automobile accident as well
as going AWOL from the army.
Cassavetes, always an intense actor, shows grit in his portrayal of a film. Am surprised that Montgomery Clift didn't get this part.
Ruth White is his mother and does remarkably well in two scenes on the telephone.
Once in New York, he befriends Sidney Poitier as the two work on the docks. Immediately, Jack Warden, a bully and villain in this film,takes a dislike to him and tragedy ensues when Poitier tries to defend his friend.
Ruby Dee, plays Poitier's wife in this film, and is brilliant in a scene where she urges Cassavetes to reveal the killer of her husband.
This is definitely an interesting film of moral values and the loner in society. With the backdrop of tenements, the right mood is depicted in the film.
Although this small film kind of got lost in the wake of On The
Waterfront, Edge Of The City can certainly hold its own with that star
studded classic. It's another story about the docks and the code of
silence that rules it.
Next to the corrupt union that Lee J. Cobb ran in On The Waterfront, Jack Warden is really small time corruption. But he's real enough as the gang boss on one of the docks who intimidates the other workers by being handy with his fists and the bailing hook and he gets the rest to kickback part of their hard earned money. And it's all hard earned money in that job.
One guy Warden can't intimidate is Sidney Poitier another gang boss and when he tries to intimidate newcomer John Cassavetes, Poitier takes him under his wing. The two develop quite the friendship and Poitier and his wife Ruby Dee even fix Cassavetes up with Kathleen Maguire.
Warden is truly one loathsome creature and it's sad how by sheer force of personality and physical prowess he cows almost everyone else into submission. In that sense he's tougher than Lee J. Cobb who did have to rely on an impression collection of goons to enforce his will in On The Waterfront.
Edge Of The City marked the big screen directorial debut of Martin Ritt who did a great job with a good cast of New York based players and spot on location cinematography. The film's low budget does show, but you're so impressed with the ensemble cast you don't really care.
Cassavetes as the loner with a past and the hip and tough Poitier are both fine, but my personal favorite in this film is Ruby Dee. She should have gotten some award for her performance, her final scene with Cassavetes is outstanding.
Catch this one if ever possible. I wish it were out on DVD or VHS.
John Cassavetes is on the run from the law. He is at the bottom of the
heap. He sees Negro Sidney Poitier as his equal and they quickly become
friends, forming a sort of alliance against a bully of a foreman played
by Jack Warden.
As someone who has worked in a warehouse myself when I was younger, I can tell you that the warehouse fights, complete with tumbling packing cases and flailing grappling hooks are as realistic as it gets. I've been in fights like these myself, although no one got killed.
The introduction of Sidney Poitier's widow is a variation on Shakespeare's Shylock "Do I not bleed?" This is an anti racist film, which, at the time, was much needed.
All the three principle characters - Warden, Cassavetes and Poitier - are superb, with Warden the most outstanding of the three.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Edge of the City" is another movie that owes a lot of credit to "On the
Waterfront". From it's NYC locations, to its score, to the belief that
whatever trouble you may be in, you can somehow right your
"Edge" also deals with ideas like loyalty and racism. In my opinion, that is where the movie does not succeed like "Waterfront". At 85 minutes the movie rushes through the establishment of relationships, and ties everything up so quickly that much of it seems forced and unbelievable.
The relationship between Sidney Poitier and John Cassavettes could have been further developed in the beginning. I don't believe that these two characters, from two very different places would have built such a strong relationship so quickly.
I think that the whole love sub-plot with Cassavettes could have been eliminated. He is so awkward with a woman that it becomes painful to watch. The only reason why it is in the movie is so that she can motivate him to do the right thing at the end. There are other ways that they could have shown this. I would have also liked to see some scenes of Axel in the army to illustrate why he is the way he is.
The acting is excellent. Poitier is terrific in a role that is beautifully written. His role as Tyler is interesting and multi-layered, and (especially for 1957), a man who is confident, respected, and intelligent. Cassavettes, as Axel North, while very good, does not seem quite right for the part. Warden is terrific as the boss who knows Axel's secret (although his fight scene with Cassavettes at the end is staged horribly. Too many break-away boxes). I thought Ruby Dee was wonderful in role of Poitier's wife.
On the whole, "Edge of the City" is a smart, movie with a very good cast that tries too hard to be an interesting noir style picture, without taking the time to let the drama build.
7 out of 10
This is an excellent movie that tackles the issue of racism in a
delicate and balanced way. Great performances all round but absolutely
outstanding acting by Sidney Poitier.
He makes this movie breathe and alive. His portrayal of a guy who struggles against discrimination and violence is simply mind blowing. His acting is forceful and delicate and subtle at the same time. Truly worthy of an Oscar, Poitier had to wait (because of his skin colour) for many more years before the sheer brilliance of his acting was recognised by the Academy.
Cassavetes turns in a great performance too, withdrawn, troubled and realistic as it has become his hallmark. He and Poitier contrast inimitably the forces of cowardice, courage and human transformation through friendship.
The movie is enjoyable and at the same time deeply haunting in its portrayal of racism in the US. The irony is that it somehow mirrors the realities under which Poitier had to work.
1957's Edge of the City, directed by Martin Ritt, stars John
Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier, Jack Warden and Ruby Dee. It's the story of
a troubled man, Axel, who has a mysterious past that gradually comes
out during the film. He has a connection that gets him a job on a
loading dock working for Charlie (Jack Warden), a real meanie who takes
kickbacks from his workers and rides them hard. Charlie has an intense
dislike for a black man, T.T. (Poitier) who holds the same position.
T.T. invites Axel to work on his team; Axel defies Charlie and does so.
Axel finds a place to live and socializes with T.T., his his wife (Dee)
and their son's white schoolteacher (Kathleen McGuire). When tragedy
strikes, none of the men on the loading dock will talk to the police,
and Axel has to come to grips with his values, what he stands for, and
the meaning of friendship.
This is a really excellent black and white film that curiously isn't really about being black or white! It's really about the limits one puts on oneself and knowing who you are. Charlie is a bigot and hates that a black man has a good position on the dock. T.T. teases Charlie and gives as good as he gets. There's no discussion of T.T. and Axel spending time together or of T.T.'s son having a white teacher with whom the family also socializes. What Axel, a loner, finds difficult is accepting any friendship or confiding in anyone - these things he learns through T.T.
Poitier absolutely shines in "Edge of the City" - he's warm, energetic, loving and smart, a man with a real enthusiasm for life, afraid of nothing. Cassavetes is excellent and plays a character totally opposite - hiding in the shadows, chronically depressed and always nervous.
The film leaves open what happens to Axel. Whatever does, he's a different man now.
Strangely underrated and unknown film, possibly in the shadow of a lot of the angry young men films that came out in that era.
I cry at a lot of movies. Call me sentimental. Call me one of those
viewers who always likes to see a happy ending. This movie, though it
has a sad ending, was great! Of all of the actors that I would love to
have lunch with, it would be Sidney Poitier. His acting, along with
John Cassavetes and Jack Warden (of 12 Angry Men fame)is stellar. His
character, who befriends a man on the run (Cassavetes) and helps him
out in every way possible is incredible.
This is another one of those forgotten noirs made during the end of the noirish era. It is well done, has a superb cast, extremely talented acting, and great cinematography. It is a film worth watching over and over again. I highly recommend this one! This is just another truly great film done by Mr. Poitier and should be sold on DVD. Even though I cried, kudos to such great art!
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