Money Misc.

Money Movies: On The Waterfront

I was watching On The Waterfront, a 1954 film about labor unions, longshoreman, corruption, and standing up for what is right1 – irregardless of the cost – and found some of the dialogue very interesting.

The excerpt below is from a speech Father Barry, a catholic priest played by Karl Malden, gave on a ship after the “accidental” death of Kayo Doogan, a longshoreman who was set to testify about his knowledge of the union leaders participation in the murder of Joey Doyle. I have lightly edited it by including some of the onscreen actions in brackets as well as omitting some dialogue that is not particularly important to get the gist of what Father Barry was trying to communicate.

FATHER BARRY
I came down here to keep a promise. I gave Kayo my word that if he stood up to the mob I’d stand up with him all the way. Now Kayo Doogan is dead. He was one of those fellows who had the gift of getting up. But this time they fixed him good — unless it was an accident like Big Mac says.

Some people think the Crucifixion only took place on Calvary. They better wise up. Taking Joey Doyle’s life to stop him from testifying is a crucifixion — Dropping a sling on Kayo Doogan because he was ready to spill his guts tomorrow — that’s a crucifixion. Every time the mob puts the crusher on a good man — tries to stop him from doing his duty as a citizen — it’s a crucifixion.

And anybody who sits around and lets it happen, keeps silent about something he knows has happened — shares the guilt of it just as much as the Roman soldier who pierced the flesh of Our Lord to see if He was dead.

{fruit flies from off screen at Father Barry}

CORRUPT LONGSHOREMAN
Go back to your church, Father.

FATHER BARRY

{looking up at and pointing to the ship}

Boys, this is my church. If you don’t think Christ is here on the waterfront, you got another guess coming. And who do you think He lines up with —

ANOTHER CORRUPT LONGSHOREMAN
Get off the dock, Father.

{fruit flies, hits Father Barry on the shoulder. he ignores it and continues}

FATHER BARRY
Every morning when the hiring boss blows his whistle, Jesus stands alongside you in the shape-up.

He sees why some of you get picked and some of you get passed over. He sees the family men worrying about getting their rent and getting food in the house for the wife and kids. He sees you selling your souls to the mob for a day’s pay.

{a tin can strikes Father Barry on the head and blood etches his forehead. a member of the crowd says something. then the father continues}

What does Christ think of the easy-money boys who do none of the work and take all of the gravy? And how does He feel about the fellows wearing hundred-and-fifty-dollar suits and diamond rings — on your union dues and your kickback money? And how does He, who spoke up without fear against every evil, feel about your silence?

THE MAIN CORRUPT LONGSHOREMAN
Shut up about that!

FATHER BARRY
You want to know what’s wrong with our waterfront? It’s love of a lousy buck. It’s making love of a buck — the cushy job — more important than the love of man. It’s forgetting that every fellow down here is your brother in Christ.

But remember Christ is always with you — Christ is in the shape-up, He’s in the hatch — He’s in the union hall— He’s kneeling here beside Doogan. And He’s saying with all of you, “If you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me!” What they did to Joey, what they did to Doogan, they’re doing to you. And you. And YOU. And only you, only you with God’s help, have the power to knock ‘em off for good!

There are a lot of challenging things in what this fictional Father had to say. He demands:

  • Fair employment practices
  • Fair compensation based upon production and usefulness
  • Complete intolerance of wickedness
  • A proper prioritization of the welfare of others

I think that these are important things for us to consider during these tough economic times. Will we as a people be remembered for our character, our decency, and our love for others? Or will we degrade into self-serving, soul-starving selfishness that enriches our lives (and maybe even those of our particular tribe) but leaves those around us worse off than they were yesterday?

  1. It is also appears to be a commentary on the McCarthy era communist witch hunt going on in Hollywood, but that isn’t really personal finance related []