Custom «"Salt of the Earth" and "On the Waterfront": Comparison and Contrast» Essay Paper Sample

The comparison of Salt of the Earth and On the Waterfront discovers more differences than similarities. The common topic of both films is fight between workers and property owners, who did not provide people with proper conditions of work and security measures. However, there are prominent differences in central accents of both movies. Each of them puts an accent on separate things tightly connected to the life stories and outlooks of its directors, producers and screenwriters. The paper compares and contrasts the two films proving that they are quite different, but pursue same main goal: establishment of truth and justice in conditions of law negligence and survival race.

In order to clarify this point, it is necessary to apply to some background knowledge about producers, whose contribution has defined the roles of characters and general movies’ plots. The producers of both films were born in the epoch of global and national contradictions that has affected their lives and made them response in their art, and at first sight their works are supposed to be very similar. However, both movies have only three similarities. Firstly, they are based on real facts that took part in 1950s in different states of America, when law and justice obeyed separate powerful clusters, and democracy was only formal proclamation neglected by corruption. Secondly, both films were included to Hollywood blacklist for their content and biographies of producers, whose outlooks were widely criticized by American Activities Committee. In this context, the authors perform as the stigmatized victims of the Soviet influence, on the one hand, and harsh attack on their creativity, on the other one. Thirdly, the screenwriters of both films are witnesses of depicted events, and they have properly collected all information and interviews to recreate events by autochthonous retranslation method.

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Except the three mentioned similarities, the films are quite different: beginning from problematics, dynamics, personalities, and pursued their goal. Salt of the Earth is the film produced by Paul Jarrico that depicts the real story of miners’ strike, which takes place in New Mexico. After a number of unpunished accidents that result in several deaths, the company provides no additional security measures that could help to protect its workers. However, the film has the triple assessment of challenges in the American society. They are as follows: ethnic inequality, gender discrimination and labor exploitation gar (in comparison to other states). The film On the Waterfront puts major accent on corruption and criminal network that rules the law. However, the producers do not entirely blame people, but economic and social conditions they live in. Brando’s character in episode, when Terry Malloy testifies against the criminals, is the allegory of promotion of available and true information about concrete individuals, who commit crimes and terrify peaceful citizens. It might be related to Elia Kazan’s biography, as in 1952 he also tested in the court naming supporters of the Communist party (he actually was a communist before). That time he was blamed by many people, so Malloy particularly explains them Kazan’s motifs. In his book Naming Names, Navasky writes about relationships between Kazan and Miller that are hardly spoiled after Kazan’s testimony. It says: “They had planned to collaborate on a movie […], but now Kazan went on to do his own waterfront picture, […] (Navasky 199). Malloy embodies Kazan, who becomes hero in the movie by telling truth, he “comes to maturity, when he realizes his obligation to fink on his fellow hoods” (Navasky 199).

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In comparison, the characters in Salt of the Earth have leftist political inclinations and do not mind to derail their careers. Particularly, they remind cinematography and values of characters, typical for the Soviet Union, that promoted an idea of optimism even at the moments of despair. Possibly, it is a result of the influence of director Herbert Biberman.

As many others artists of that time, Biberman was inspired by the Soviet communism in his outlook. When Paul Jarrico and Herbert Biberman, the two blacklisted producers, go to the New Mexico, they hear about the Union of Mine members’ strike against the Empire Zinc Corporation. However, it is known that this union is dissolved in 1949 for its communist affiliations. The strikers demand the same wages, the Anglo miners already have, even though the company directories conduct hard campaign against Latino-Americans (from the culmination scene of males struggle, when they have read the order): “All Mexicans have to be sent where they come from” (“Salt of the Earth” 1954). Simultaneously, the film depicts the struggle for gender equality and women rights, firstly when characters put on the poster “We want sanitation, not discrimination” and later when women replace men on picket line and gained victory (Salt of the Earth, 1954). Michael Wilson, the blacklisted screenwriter (who also supports communism), methodologically provides in-text phrases, typical for Soviet and generally communist outlook. Firstly, it is the inclination to promotion of social equality and commonwealth of property (remember the scenes of collective work and absence of religious beliefs, despite the fact that Mexicans are quite religious). Secondly, there is the clear trace of Wilson’s personal empathy to miners, while he visits them in order to prepare film materials. However, the producers’ team provides Mexican alternative of honoring autochthonous national heroes. During the minor’s meeting and the final scene (when one guy picks up the painting from the ground), the auditory notices the portrait of Benito Juarez – “the father of Mexico” that is the analogue of the picture of George Washington (Salt of the Earth 1954). In the end, Wilson and Biberman put Esperanza in the center as the woman of strong will embodying entire nation. United fight against capitalistic selfishness with victory of Mexicans is the most predictable ending made by optimistic producers, but in fact, its value is in struggle for human rights, not political system.

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In comparison to the Salt of the Earth, On the Waterfront is more dynamic and aggressive film. It has more actions, typical for criminal dramas, with murder scenes and no struggle for female rights. This film has more realistic manner and better-depicted background story beyond key characters. Remember the scene near the car, when Charley wants to warn Terry not to teste against Johnny: “Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, “Kid, this is not your night. We are going for the price on Wilson” (On the Waterfront, 1954). Desperately Terry confesses: “I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum […], let's face it” (On the Waterfront, 1954). On the other hand, the film contains brief story of racketeers’ leader Johnny, whose real name is Albert Anastasia. Remember the scene after murder of Joey Doyle, when Terry comes to the band for answers, and Johnny tells him his life story of a poor surviving boy.

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The screenwriter Budd Schulberg had some relation to communism and even was testified as a party member, but it did not seriously reflect on the film. Vice versa, the priest Father Barry (who is the screen character of the real priest John M. Corridan) becomes an allegorical image of protest leader, who encourages protagonists to struggle against criminals. Remember the scene at the church, when Father Barry yells: “Boys, this is my church! And if you don't think Christ is down here on the waterfront you've got another guess coming!” (On the Waterfront, 1954). Predictably, co-author of scenery Malcolm Johnson is a former investigative journalist and has published series of articles on that topic including his analogue to the film cast. Malloy has also real-life counterpart - Anthony De Vincenzo, who testifies in the court against the band and is hardly injured because of that. The authenticity of his image is the outcome of the interview of De Vincenzo, conducted by Schulberg. In addition, the film On the Waterfront has specific image of a woman. There is only one female character, Edie Doyle, who seems to be very sensitive and naïve. However, this is the mistaken impression, because she starts campaign investigating the murder of her brother, refuses to obey her father and goes back to school. Moreover, she is more altruistic: “Shouldn't everybody care about everybody else?” (On the Waterfront, 1954). In comparison, women from Salt of the Earth are less sophisticated and more concerned about their well-being as well as their rights. During one of the scenes, when women come to Esperanza to encourage her to protest, they complain about ridiculous questions, men ask them: “What have you been doing all day? Reading funny papers?” (Salt of the Earth, 1954). Thus, in the prospect of gender equality and protection of human rights, the film by Elia Kazan is stronger, even though it has slower dynamics.

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The two films represent life and struggle for justice, based on real facts, that happened in America in the first part of the 20th century. The influence of communism and live experience of producers have made both films autochthonous and precedential by truth they depict. Their forms, episodes, accents and problematics are different, but commonly, they depict the American historical episode of peoples’ struggles against inequality and violation of human rights, committed in conditions of lawlessness and survival race.

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