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Drifter Axel North has just arrived in New York City, having traveled from city to city throughout the country. Given the name Charlie Malick as a contact by an acquaintance named Ed Faber, Axel is able to get a job working as a stevedore in Charlie's gang on the dockyards. Little did Axel know that Charlie is corrupt, requiring payola for that job, and is a racist. It is solely because of the color of his skin that Charlie hates his fellow gang boss, Tommy Tyler, a black man. It is also because he can see that Axel is a little wet behind the ears that Tommy tries to befriend him to get him out from under Charlie's thumb. Due solely to the reason that he is a drifter, Axel is slow to warm and open up to Tommy, eventually providing some basic information: that he is originally from Gary, Indiana, that his real surname is Nordmann, and that the only person he has ever really loved in his life was his older brother Andy, whose death exacerbated the already strained relationship he has ...Written by
Expanded from the 1955 hour-long live television play "A Man Is Ten Feet Tall", broadcast on "Philco Television Playhouse (1948)", also with Sidney Poitier in the role of Tommy. See more »
When Alex is fighting Charlie and they end up on the tracks near the end of the rail car Alex picks up a hunk of pipe that bends while he is swinging it. Charlie then hits him a couple of times in the gut. When Alex falls on the ground, it is obvious he has padding under his jacket to absorb the blows which disappears in the next shot. See more »
Martin Ritt's first film offers an exceptional existentialist answer (three years later) to Elia Kazan's more conservative "On The Waterfront." While "Waterfront" benefited immensely from an electrifying Marlon Brando, who inadvertently disguised Kazan's offensive theme of trying to justify naming names (as Kazan did eagerly before the House Un-American Activities Committee), "Edge of the City" boasts a young John Cassavetes and an upstart Sidney Poitier daring to confront issues that "Waterfront" failed to acknowledge, namely, workers' rights and race relations.
"Edge of the City" boldly dives into this (then) unknown territory, and although the quite appealing black protagonist (Poitier) may seem a bit Hollywood simplistic, the courageous struggle against thinly-veiled bigotry and violence has hardly aged at all. One wonders how shocked initial 1957 moviegoers were at such a bold presentation of white-black relations (if some of the bigoted didn't leave the theater early, they must of left dumbfounded, if not offended).
The last reel of the film will still surprise audiences, as it refuses to sink into expected clichés, including those that tainted "Waterfront." While both films climax with a fight in front of stunned workers, director Ritt avoids the tiddy simplicity of Kazan's ratonalizied ending. Only the most jaded viewers will not realize "Edge" remains such a radical and entertaining film.
What's most disturbing about this lost classic: how it sadly stayed unavailable on any format, for reasons that remain quite cloudy until it surfaced in a Sidney Poitier compilation in late 2008. This film should be required viewing in high school or college history classes across the country, yet one can only find it on obscure late-night TV, if ever at all.
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