On the Waterfront: Cab Scene


Terry has been subpoenaed to court and wants to confess against the mob, however he’s concerned about his brother Charley who is in the mob. When Terry gets into the cab he wants to talk to Charley about testifying. Charley on the other hand is masking his nerves and following his boss Johnny’s instructions to convince Terry to not testify before they reach River street, or kill him.

When Terry questions why they’re going to River street, Charley lies without hesitation, a fixed clue that he’s hiding his emotions and complying with Johnny. Charley refers to Terry as ‘slugger’ and ‘kid’ and babies Terry, revealing his desire to look after him. Terry is resistant to Charley’s work offer and repeats ‘I don’t know’ which highlights his ambivalence. After Charley snaps on Terry, a beat shift occurs in the dialogue. Charley retreats, and Terry reveals that Charley crushed his boxing dreams. A critical action in the script is when Charley hands the gun to Terry, trying to seeking redemption.

The actors used open clues in the script to aid their physical performance. In the beginning, Charley is calm, even laughing, his tone changes when Terry isn’t acquiescing, and he pulls out his gun, an action not in the script. Terry shakes his head with disappointment, Charley swings his head back and closes his eyes and barely looks Terry in the eye. Aspects of the script are open for interpretation, Charley tells Terry to think about ‘ambition’, and that he should be on the ‘inside’. This could be interpreted as him joining the mob.

Throughout the film we are introduced to Terry as the ‘bum’ and Charley as the successful, supportive brother, providing Terry work at the waterfront. However this scene is historical because it’s revealed that Charley is actually the one who made Terry throw a career ending fight to make money on a bet. We realize Charley isn’t as caring as he was portrayed, however after acknowledging this, he seeks redemption.

The main action of the scene begins with Charley trying to persuade Terry to not go against the mob and take the job, however when the beat of the scene changes, the main action of the scene turns into a confession from Terry to both Charley and the audience of the role Charley played in the loss of his boxing dreams.

The scene is reactive, with Charley accepting that his brother is going to testify, and also coming to grips with how he’s responsible for his brothers lost ambitions. This propels Terry to take down Johnny.

The activity the scene revolves around is the cab ride. The cab is a closed space without distractions. It’s an intimate setting which complements the personal revelations that unfold. The cab allows the focus of the scene to be less on the body of the characters, but more on facial expressions and tone of voice.

The point of resolution in the scene is Charley finally accepting that Terry wont comply with the mob and him going against the mob himself by ensuring Terry’s safety.



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