Moment of Contention - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Moment of Contention

Moment of Contention

By Sean Braswell

SourceEverett Digital


Few scenes in film history can rival this classic from 1954.

By Sean Braswell

It is an iconic Hollywood moment but not one of triumph or salvation. It is a lamentation for the ages, an epiphany of blame, despair and self-pity, a mantra for the also-rans and the has-beens of the world. 

“You was my brother, Charley, you should have looked out for me a little bit,” dockworker Terry Malloy, played by 29-year old Marlon Brando, tells his older brother, Charley (Rod Steiger), a Mob heavy who once instructed Terry to lose an important boxing match so that he could win a bet. 

“I could have had class. I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.” 

Movies don’t get much better than this. Never mind that the taxi has Venetian blinds (the producers forgot to pay for rear-projection equipment) or that a peeved Steiger’s close-ups were filmed without Brando, who had to leave the set each day at 4 p.m. to see his therapist about his mother’s recent death. Never mind that Brando claimed to have improvised the scene and did try to improvise it, until director Elia Kazan told him to “Stop the shit, Buddy [Brando’s nickname].” When you watch the taxi scene, none of that matters. Brando’s performance transcends it all. 


    Sign up for the weekly newsletter!

    Related Stories