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‘On The Waterfront’ On Criterion: Frank Sinatra Was Originally Cast In The Lead, Martin Scorsese’s Thoughts & Aspect Ratio Talk

'On The Waterfront' On Criterion: Frank Sinatra Was Originally Cast In The Lead, Martin Scorsese's Thoughts & Aspect Ratio Talk

Elia Kazan‘s unimpeachable 1954 classic picture “On The Waterfront” is out on Blu-Ray/DVD via the Criterion Collection this week in a beautifully packaged two disc edition. While he was well on his way to becoming known as one of the world’s greatest actors  — he was nominated for Best Actor three years in a row between 1952 and 1954 — Marlon Brando‘s first Oscar win came for “On The Waterfront” in 1955.

We’ll be diving into some of Kazan’s work a bit deeper tomorrow, but in the meantime, Criterion’s cooked up some of their own goodies, including an interview with Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones (the directors of the personal Kazan documentary, “A Letter To Elia“) about the film — one of the “Raging Bull” director’s favorites — that you can see below. They DVD boutique label also has some trivia and a very interesting aspect ratio video essay helpful for those that need an introduction to aspect ratios and what they mean for cinema, but also something much more interesting. 

It turns out it’s not 100% clear what aspect ratio “On The Waterfront” should be presented in (or at least there’s always been a strong debate; cinematographer Boris Kaufman‘s impeccable black-and-white framing was shot in a way that could fit several formats). So to be fair Criterion has restored and presented the film in a trio of  aspect ratios 1.66:1, 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 frames. Confused? Watch the essay below, it’s quite excellent and will explain it all.

Additionally, two cool pieces of trivia you may not know: Frank Sinatra was originally cast as Terry Malloy, the longshoreman lead of the film that Brando eventually went on to play. Evidently producer Sam Spiegel guilt-tripped Brando into the role by making the case that Kazan had made his career with “A Streetcar Named Desire” and he “owed” the director one. This anecdotal piece of trivia about the famous “I coulda been a contendah” taxi cab scene is amazing.

Brando’s contract stipulated that he was allowed to leave the set every day at 4 p.m. to attend sessions with his psychoanalyst. As a result, he did not read his lines to Rod Steiger when it came time to film Steiger’s close-ups during the famous taxicab scene; Kazan did instead. Steiger took umbrage, and relations between the two actors remained frosty for decades.

“On The Waterfront” is out on DVD/Blu-Ray now.

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