Christ was down there on the waterfront: In Mondays New York Times, author Nathan Ward offered an interesting history of the Gotham waterfront. We were especially intrigued. By happenstance, weve recently watched On the Waterfront several times, focusing on the character played by Eva Marie Saint.
What was New Yorks waterfront like when this famous film was made? Ward doesnt mention the film, but brings its era to life:
WARD (7/5/10): By the middle of the 20th century, New York Harbor was the greatest port in the world, with more than 900 working piers. But as commerce boomed, so too did crime. The small-time heists by pre-Prohibition gangs gave way to territorial murders and organized pilferage. (Pier 45 at West Street, now a pastoral portion of the Hudson River Park, was so gang-ridden it couldnt be rented out.)
Malcolm Mike Johnson, whose investigations for the old New York Sun won a Pulitzer Prize in 1949, called the citys docks at the time a waterfront jungle. Murders, he wrote, are commonplace, a logical product of widespread gangsterism. Stealing was so rampant it amounted to an unofficialand heftytax. One steamship company, the Grace Line, lost nearly $3 million in 1948 alone, 80 percent of it from its New York piers. The bolder pier heists of the era included an entire truck-sized electrical generator and a 10-ton shipment of steel.
The authorities were hampered by a waterfront code against squealing that was no Hollywood invention. A man could be killed in broad daylight before half a dozen witnesses and nobody would testify about it, wrote William Keating, a New York assistant district attorney. On the waterfront, to talk was to rat, and to rat was to stand exposed and unprotected. Dozens and dozens of murders went unsolved.
Its much as the film portrayed. But then, On the Waterfronts script was based on Johnsons reports, a point made in the opening credits.
Brandos character, Terry Malloy, is the iconic figure from On the Waterfront, the one the world remembers. But the next time you watch the film, well suggest that you focus on Edie Doyle, the character played by Saint. (Like Brando, she won an Oscar. It was her first film role.)
In the end, On the Waterfront focuses on the testosterone-laden battle Malloy wages against Johnny Friendly, the mob boss. But throughout the film, Malloy conducts a more unusual moral discussion with the character played by Saint. Malloy was raised without parents, in an orphans home. From his first interaction with Edie Doyle, its clear that he wants to be more human, more humane. To his everlasting credit, he wants to be more like this person.
In their first conversation, he picks up one of Edies gloves, absent-mindedly slips it onto his hand. To watch him do it, click here.
Has any film ever been so dense with character? Five actors were nominated for Oscars. This includes Karl Malden, playing the crusading Father Barry, who mentors Brando in his fight with the moband in his colloquy with Saint. In the end, the film turns to Brandos fight with the mob. His ongoing interaction with Saint is more unusual, more human, more vital.
Christ is down here on the waterfront, Malden says. In the person of Saint?
An exchange for the ages: In that first conversation, Terry and Edie remember their days at the local parochial school. Boy, the way those sisters used to wack me, I dont know what! Terry says. They thought they were going to beat an education into me, but I foxed them.
Maybe they just didnt know how to handle you, Edie says, launching an exchange for the ages:
EDIE: Maybe they just didnt know how to handle you.
TERRY: How would you have done it?
EDIE: With a little more patience and kindness. Thats what makes people mean and difficult. People dont care enough about them.
TERRY: [Long pause] Ohhhh What, are you kidding me? Come on, I better get you home. Theres too many guys around here with only one thing on their mind.
Patience and kindness dont work every time. Do you find that insults work better?
Special report: How we got here!
Read each thrilling installment: David Brooks described a broken press culture. How in the world did we get here?
PART 1: Journalists never trash the pressbut last Friday, David Brooks did. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/28/10.
PART 2: Brooks mentioned cable TV and the Netbut he skipped past Lady Dowd. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 6/30/10.
PART 3: David Brooks had 800 words. A great deal was left unsaid. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/2/10.
In todays final installment, we review an untouchableDowd.
PART 4THE UNTOUCHABLE MAUREEN DOWD (permalink): How did we ever reach the point where our journalism is all about trivia? Where the least important topics prevail?
By the rules of the game, David Brooks couldnt name Maureen Dowd when he considered this problem. (He doesnt name Paul Krugman today.) But over the course of the past twenty years, major liberals and liberal journals have never gone after Dowd either.
No other print journalist has played such a major role in taking our discourse to a dim, dumb place. But have you ever seen a liberal journal criticize Dowd for her squalor?
What have liberals bought with this silence? Consider the insolence and sheer stupidity of Sundays column by Dowd, in which she continues to reinvent our political historyin a way which air-brushes endless misconduct by herself and her high crowd.
For her main topic, Dowd lets us know that she loved Dracula when she was a teen. (No big surprise there.) But before she takes us to that place, she offers her latest absurd review of recent political history.
How did George W. Bush reach the White House? Imploring the world to fly its freak flags, the lady was clowning again:
DOWD (7/4/10): On this Independence Day, if youre passionate about iteven (or especially) if no one else islet your freak flag fly.
Al Gore would probably have gotten to be president if he hadnt let his campaign mercenaries talk him out of a full-throated zeal on the subject he was most passionate about, the one topic that snapped him out of his wooden mien: the environment.
His hired guns in the 2000 race advised him that if he droned on about the environment, he would come across as a tedious tree-hugger. It wasnt considered a sexy issue at that point.
Later, when An Inconvenient Truth, his slide show that left jaded Washingtonians bored, became a hitthe movie won two Oscars and Gore won the Nobel Peace Prizehe no doubt realized he should have stuck with his passion when he campaigned.
From the time I was small, I had a passion that many others found strange.
The sub-text here is predictable: I was smart enough to be myself. Dumb-bell Gore was not! Requisite self-glorification to the side, lets examine Dowds clownish, self-serving attempt to re-imagine our history.
As a candidate, should Gore have discussed the environment more? Would it have helped him garner more votes? Theres no real way to answer that question. This explains why such ruminations are pleasing to dim-wits like Dowd.
But one fact is abundantly clear: If Gore had discussed the environment more, Dowd and her colleagues would have ridiculed him for it. Consider the way the mainstream press corpsand Dowd herselfbehaved during Campaign 2000.
The New York Times in the balance: Simply put, Candidate Gore was ridiculed for his environmentalism at the New York Times. By now, his best-selling 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, was being described at our greatest newspaper as his mid-life crisis book. That specific phrase was penned by reporter Robin Toner, who was merely reporting that the book is widely considered to be Mr. Gore's mid-life crisis book. (So considered by whom? Toner didnt say.) But the notion that Earth in the Balance involved a mid-life crisis was expressed at least five separate times by Times writers during this campaign, starting with Michiko Kakutanis mocking, front-page treatment of the book in December 1999. (Kakutanis treatment of the book may be the most propagandistic review of a book ever committed to print.) Presumably, this mockery would have been heightened had Gore discussed the environment more.
The RNC and the mainstream press: Starting in the spring of 1999, the RNC began pimping a baldly dishonest claim about Gores very kooky book: Al Gore has advocated eliminating the automobile! This claim was always baldly moronic. But go ahead! Try to find a single instance in which a mainstream reporter or opinion writer discussed this obvious fact. On Crossfire, Robert Novak pimped the theme, Bill Press fumbled and failed.
The war over Michigan: By the fall of 2000, Lee Iacocca was starring in Michigan TV ads, further asserting this ludicrous theme ands headlining the Republican effort in this pivotal state. Gore ended up winning Michigan. But go ahead! Try to find the mainstream journalist who pushed back against this drive.
Simple story: Gore was frequently ridiculed for his environmentalism during Campaign 2000. How did Lady Dowd react? The lady could have written about these topics, of course; she could have pushed back against all the nonsense. But on the few occasions when she deigned to let such topics pollute her work, she of course did what her colleagues were doingshe ridiculed Gore, rather hard.
Did Gore avoid discussing the environment? In June 2000, he met with the New York Times editorial board, and with dimwits like Dowd. In her subsequent column, Lady Dowd whined and complained about how boring Gore had been. The punishment had been extreme. Just look what Gore had discussed!
DOWD (6/14/00): Al Gore met yesterday with Times writers and editors. The first question put to him was: How do you assess George W. Bush as a candidate?
The vice president spoke 1,565 words, really, really slowly, with glacial pauses between each word. He propounded and expounded for more than 15 minutes, touching on such diverse topics as the human genome, the ice-free future of the Arctic Ocean, the "Star Wars" journey, the climate of New York City, federal entitlements, the climate of Atlanta, embassy security, the climate of Illinois, Individual Development Accounts, the climate of Oklahoma and the state of the U.S. economy in 1835. But despite some prodding, he never did get around to answering.
He simply kept exhaustively not answering in that formal voice that sounds as though he has to guide his listeners by the hand, no matter how well they know the subject.
All . . . those . . . drawn . . . out . . . syllables . . . signifying . . . nothing . . . had . . . a . . . soporific . . . effect . . . on . . . me. But when I snapped back to attention, I hadn't missed a thing.
Good God, that climate talk was boring! The lady had struggled to stay awake! But what else was new? From the 1996 re-election on, Dowd rarely talked about Gore and the environmentbut when she did, she typically did so as a way to mock Gores freak flag. In 1997, she even complained on behalf of the Chinese leadership! (During a visit to China, Gore had whipp[ed] out his carbon dioxide emission charts for the Prime Minister, even recalling the last ice age. This was too much, Dowd had said.) Later in 1997, Gore was off to Kyotoand Dowd did a column about what he was thinking. She pictured Gore singing I Feel Pretty. Eventually, she had him say this:
DOWD (12/3/97): Heading off to Kyoto now to talk global warming. I'll try not to get too charged up about the earth disappearing. (Like my hair.)
Maureen Dowd is morally illand shes an absolute fool.
Dowd had always been like this. Indeed, just two weeks before she wrote her column about Gores deadly talk to the New York Times board, the lady had written one of her typical fatuous columns, imagining who would be more fun to date, Candidate Bush or Candidate Gore. Among Candidate Gores advantages, he would amuse you with wild exaggerations about his accomplishments, this monumental dimwit imagined. But among his disadvantages, Dowd pictured this: He'd bring his global warming charts and talk about his Inner Ecology. And Dowd knew how crazy that book of his was! In April 2000, she offered these thoughts about the Gore camps approach to the environment. As always, the dick joke came first:
DOWD (4/5/00): Some Gore backers are excited about two things in "Erin Brockovich."
No, two other things.
These Democrats think that the allure of the movie about a saucy working-class divorcee who wins a whopping class-action suit against a California utility that poisoned a town's water augurs a Gore victory because the story is pro-environment and pro-tort.
"Texas has one of the worst records on the environment, while it's Gore's signature issue," crows a White House official. "And Bush is for tort reform, which is basically denying people the right to redress grievances through the court for having their lives blasted away."
Republicans are still counting on using quotes from Mr. Gore's book, "Earth in the Balance," which is being re-released for Earth Day 2000, to make him seem flaky and extreme. Mr. Gore warns of "an ecological Kristallnacht" and thunders that our children could "inherit a wasteland."
Republicans are searching for his unedited text, which they hope will sound even flakier.
Mr. Luntz says that, polling for the Nature Conservancy, he came away feeling that women don't want programs as extreme as Mr. Gore's: "The suburban housewife wants to maintain the park down the street, not close the state of Colorado.
After her requisite, dim-witted thought about a ladys pair of large knockers, Dowd portrayed Gore backers and White House officials actively talking up the environment to which she responded by churning Pure Republican Cant about how flaky and extreme Gores book really was. Needless to say, the languid lady made no attempt to evaluate these RNC claims. Purring from Dear Jacks finest shag, she cattily passed on the smack.
In fact, Gore did discuss the environment during Campaign 2000. He could have discussed it more, of course. How would Dowd and her colleagues have responded? It isnt hard to guess.
Dowd is one of the worlds biggest foolsand a cosmic gender nutcase to boot. Simple story: No print journalist has played a bigger role in dumbing our discourse down to the breaking point, in just the way Brooks described.
David Brooks didnt call Dowds name. But then, no liberal journal has ever done so in a serious way, in all the years of the headlong decline Brooks described in his column. Darlings! It simply isnt done! Dowd is an icon in a powerful world. Considerations of career and social status keep the liberals who edit your liberal journals from calling this sick losers name.
By April of the following year: By April 2001, of course, things were quite different for Dowd. By now, George W. Bush was in the White House, and the lady could see shed been wrong, oh so wrong, in her past denigrations of Gore. You see, this lady had been thrown for a loop by a joke Bush told at a dinner:
DOWD (4/1/01): I guess a guy who can yuk it up about a woman he has executed in Texas can yuk it up about anything.
But it was a creepy moment.
It worked for Erin Brockovich to joke about the carcinogens in the water enviro-villains were sipping because she wanted to get the poison out. W. wants to keep the poison into help the enviro-villains who contributed to his campaign.
Forgive me, Al Gore.
I used to think you were striving too geekily to be Millennial Man. The Palm Pilot on your belt. The Blackberry. The Earth-cam you dreamed of. Citing "Futurama" as your favorite show. The obsessions about global warming and the information highway. Boldly choosing the first Jewish running mate.
But now I'm going hungry for a shred of modernity. Bush II has reeled backward so fast, economically, environmentally, globally, culturally, it's redolent of Dorothy clicking her way from the shimmering spires of Oz to a depressed black-and-white Kansas.
Dowd, of course, is a consummate idiot. Four months after this column appeared, she flipped on Gore again. Gore wasnt fighting Bush hard enough, she now declared. And of course, Dowd could tell why Gore was being so slickit was all about the campaign he planned to run in 2004!
You know? The campaign he never ran?
This particular column vividly displays Dowds emotional and intellectual squalorthe sickness your liberal leaders accept. For that reason, we post a large chunk of the column. As she starts, Dowd is upset because Gore is too fatand because he has grown a beard on a family vacation. She knows his plans for 2004. Indeed, she knows the very words the gentleman hears in his head.
This column was written by an ultimate foola sick, sad clown to whom liberal leaders have deferred for the past twenty years. Liberal leaders have refused to tell the truth about this sick, sad, stupid loser:
DOWD (8/5/01):The beard is magnifique. So Continental, so Pepe Le Pew.
In all those pictures from Europe, the newly hirsute Al Gore looking like Orson Welles, strolls contentedly after a repast in Rome with Tipper.
He has a sly, freshly liberated expression that you usually see only on guys of 18, when they're finally old enough to escape from their parents, principals and guidance counselors, go off on a trek to Europe and grow a goofy-looking beard.
It took Prince Albert, who has to choreograph spontaneity, decades to break awayto escape from his alpha-male coach, media mercenaries and overshadowing political sibling, go off on a trek to Europe and grow a goofy-looking beard.
With his Hemingway growth and Heineken girth, all Mr. Gore needs is a pack of Gitanes and an earth-tone beret. It is tres formidable that Al can be so insouciant, playing the romantic, carefree expatriate when he is really the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!
All the fervid speculation last week about whether Mr. Gore would run again in 2004despite Tipper's resistancewas piffle.
Of course, Al is in the ring. The way he sees it, he isn't starting all over. He is running for re-electionagainst a man he has already defeated. He just needs to evict the Occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania, the Scalia squatter. After all, W. is never there anyway. And even when he's there, he's not there.
Mr. Gore has been playing hard to get, like George Washington or a Rules girl, waiting for the clamor of his party and his public. It is likely to be an interminable wait.
Does Mr. Gore really think that all the Ken dollsJohn Edwards, Evan Bayh, John Kerrymuch less his eager ex-protege, Joe Lieberman, will simply step aside and say, "Oh, O.K., Al, you go again"? Does he think he'll get a green light from Tom Daschle, the clever, potent Senate majority leader who de-pom-pommed Mississippi cheerleader Trent Lott?
Democrats are exasperated all over again by the plodding, self-conscious way Mr. Gore is backing into his re-emergence by hosting a political academy for recent college graduates in Tennessee (the home state he couldn't carry). His speech is not open to the press. "It is just like Gore," sighs a Democratic official, "to try not to look political when what he is doing is so obvious."
He's trying to act as if he has a machine, but it's a chimera. What are his passions, except getting what he feels he earned by toiling in the High Chair King's court?
As W. and Uncle Dick went about strip-mining the nation, allowing arsenic in the water and turning Alaska into a gas station, Democrats assumed Mr. Gore would lead the opposition. He was the champion of Kyoto and author of a chicken-little polemic warning of "an ecological Kristallnacht" and "wasteland" that looks mild compared to the toxic dreams of the Houston Oilers.
But he was too busy licking his wounds and calculating his comeback to respond when the Earth really was In the Balance. He was too caught up in an image of himself as a bearded, buff Russell Crowe, standing in the Coliseum, listening to the mob scream his name: Maximus, Maximus.
Poor Al. He is the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and yet he never will be.
By now, Dowd could state her real view, the view she had snickered out all along. Earth in the Balance had simply been a chicken-little polemic.
This past Sunday, Dowd declared that Candidate Gore should have played Chicken Little much more.
Dowd may be the dumbest person on earth. She is clearly one of the sickest. By the rules of the guild, Brooks was restricted from naming her name. But liberal leaderseditors of liberal journalshave also deferred to this screaming nut-cake over the past twenty years.
They will continue to defer. Their careers will be enhancedand, for perfectly obvious reasons, your nation will continue to fail.