It is May Day, which means, in Europe, unions and other workers representation groups are out marching on issues that face their current economic circumstances. Due to our current economic climate and how the blame was not placed on the perpetrators of this current storm and more resting on the back bone of those that work honestly, there have been some May Day marches in America today. In the state of Ohio, the mayor of our fair city of Akron agreed to increase pay for the city’s police officers because “it was the right thing to do” as means to settle the dispute that has been going on over a year.The author wonders if such sentiment will evaporate all the way up to Governor Kasich. Of course, it would be a long sought miracle if he actually did stop fighting the middle and working classes and grant them their rights because it was the right thing to do. There is a classic film that the author thinks would encourage him to do the right thing. The movie is 1954’s On The Waterfront. Known to many as Elia Kazan’s means to rationalize why he named names in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee in the early fifties, the film remains a political testament against unionization and its playing on television and classic movie nights in movie theaters has only added to the demonization of unions for the past fifty-plus years. The film itself paints a very one-dimensional view on unions and even though members of the longshoreman union and its bosses are played by great actors, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger. So, why would the author pick this film?
At the heart of this film is a brillant performance and a brillant character arc that transcends the intentioned politics of the film, and it is acted brillantly by Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy, who plays in a part in the murder of a fellow longshoreman who wanted to tell of this one union’s corruption. Unions, like any other human organization, is bound to fall into corruption if mistakes are not met justly and the fraility and imperfection of human beings who organize are not understood. But, as Brando’s Terry navigates through the guilt he feels over his participation in this one act of violence represented by shifty deals, and he tries to cover it up by befriending and romancing his friend’s sister, Edie Doyle, and protecting her and Father Barry, the late Karl Malden from harm while they try to find the source of what killed Edie’s brother. Eventually, he does do the right thing and stands up to corruption. Brando’s senstive performance makes the film more against a statement against corruption than it is against unions, and let’s face it, there is plenty of corruption abound in our state and in our country and the working American is getting blamed when they are completely innocent.
If this movie was remade today, the subject would be dealing with corporate corruption and the Lee J. Cobb character would be a Fortune 500 CEO who relentlessly makes a financial faux pas and gets off scotch free. The Rod Steiger character would be his right hand Vice President who thinks he knows his workers, since his brother is one, and the Marlon Brando would be contemplating whistleblowing as he tries to cover his tracks when the company “takes care of” someone who was about to blow the whistle. The Eva Marie Saint character would still be the one instigating and investigating with the socially conscious priest morally backing her up. Not saying the film should be made, but there have been many movies that dealt with what this movie deals with on the corporate level. The point is still the same, and the message is still timeless: Do the right thing. Maybe next year, there will be a May Day in America, and it will be celebrated wholeheartedly.