McCarthyism, Christianity, and the Mafia: Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront Reconsidered


  • Robert J. Cardullo University of Michigan


Palabras clave:

On the Waterfront, Elia Kazan, McCarthyism, American communism, Christianity, organized crime


Whether one sees it, finally, as a moral tale, a semi-documentary crime melodrama, a social-problem picture, a boxing film manqué, a Christian allegory, a political allegory, or a revenge fantasy, On the Waterfront has found its way into the ranks of cinema classics—where it remains, over sixty years after its initial release. This essay reconsiders the following elements in On the Waterfront: its historical context and political overtones in the McCarthyite America of the early 1950s; the movie’s thoroughgoing Christian symbolism; and the role of organized crime both inside and outside the film’s drama. In the process, the author “names names” and investigates their role in bringing this important work to fruition: Elia Kazan, Arthur Miller, Budd Schulberg, Malcolm Johnson, and Marlon Brando.

Biografía del autor/a

Robert J. Cardullo, University of Michigan

R. J. CARDULLO has had his work appear in such journals as the Yale Review, Cambridge Quarterly, Film Quarterly, and Cinema Journal. For twenty years, from 1987 to 2007, he was the regular film critic for the Hudson Review in New York. Cardullo is the author or editor of a number of books, including Soundings on Cinema: Speaking to Film and Film Artists (SUNY Press, 2008) and In Search of Cinema: Writings on International Film Art (McGill-Queens UP, 2004). He is also the chief American translator of the film criticism of the Frenchman André Bazin. Cardullo’s own film criticism has been translated into the following languages: Russian, German, Chinese, Turkish, Spanish, Korean, and Romanian. Cardullo earned his doctoral degree from Yale University and received his B.A. from the University of Florida. He taught for four decades at the University of Michigan,