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Contender: Mastering the Method (2001)
*** (out of 4)
Good featurette taking a look at the legendary "I coulda been a contender..." sequence from ON THE WATERFRONT, which featured Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger playing brothers confronting one another. Steiger is interviewed about the sequences as are James Lipton, Martin Landau, Richard Schickel and Brando biographer Patricia Bosworth. The featurette starts off with the guests talking about why they feel the scene is so great. This of course gets into a long topic dealing with the choices that the actors made and how they didn't try and turn the scene into something macho or what you'd typically see in a gangster picture. The last part of this has Steiger talking about various difficulties that came up including the fact that the rear projection didn't show up on the day of filming and there's also talk about Brando leaving at four o'clock and leaving Steiger to film his shots by himself. The Brando biographer tries to explain what happened but Steiger is certainly honest about his feelings.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Between them, Marlon Brando (Terry Malloy), Rod Steiger (Terry's older brother Charley "The Gent" Malloy), and ON THE WATERFRONT director Elia Kazan were involved with about 500 different movies. Some were great (for instance, Brando's THE GODFATHER); most were not. Though this "making of" focuses on the famous taxicab dialog between the Malloy brothers, it touches upon enough peripheral issues around this famous scene to prove one of the keys to WATERFRONT's immortality (beyond benefiting from having a talented cast and crew): in a word, serendipity. Brando's feminine side was brought out by his mom passing away shortly before filming. Steiger's anguish was enhanced by Brando's mid-scene departure to cry on the shoulder of his shrink. Perhaps most important, the scene is NOT opened up to the distraction of what would now be hopelessly dated back-projection of city passers-by behind the heads of the taxi-bound brothers, due to producer Sam Spiegel being too cheap to rent said projector. One of Kazan's crew heard of the problem delaying this scene's filming, and observed his own morning cab had been equipped with venetian blinds. Kazan quickly had such blinds installed on the set's "half-a-cab" prop, and the rest is history!
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