"This is my church!"

"This is my church!" March 6, 2011

“Go back to your church!”
“Boys, this is my church! And if you don’t think Christ is down here on the waterfront, you’ve got another guess coming.”
I hinted at this on the “About” page, but I’m giving full warning now: I’m a classic movie buff, and us classic movie buffs, we’re a little strange. We bring up old movies and start quoting things and drag them into places where they don’t seem to belong just because they are so awesome and we can’t stop talking about them. (We sometimes make VERY RARE exceptions for recent movies, but by and large…bleh and meh. At least that’s my reaction.)

So, as a certified classic movie buff, I’d like to take a quick break from SG and drag a bit of classic film-making into a southern gospel blog on this fine Sunday morning. It’s from On the Waterfront, released in 1954—one of the greatest American movies ever made. The film is about a simpleminded former prizefighter turned longshoreman named Terry, played by Marlon Brando. He struggles with the guilt of having unwittingly played a role in the death of somebody who was going to expose the workers’ corrupt union leaders. The movie shows him coming to terms with his conscience as he agonizes over whether to name names himself, thereby risking his own life, or play D &D like the rest (deaf and dumb).
However, the center of this clip is the local priest, played by Karl Malden. He is the voice of Terry’s conscience in the movie, trying to convince him to do the right thing. (Says Terry in one scene, “If I spill, my life ain’t worth a nickel.” The priest replies, “And how much is your soul worth if you don’t?”) In this clip, he is standing over the body of yet another victim of the mob who was going to “squeal.” And there he begins to speak—to the corrupt leaders, to the people who are letting them have their way, to everybody who will listen. (The camera frequently cuts over to Terry himself, who is listening intently.) I will save all the power of his words for the video. This is not an officially “Christian” movie, but this is one of the most powerful Christian scenes that I have ever seen on film. I wish today’s Christian movies were this artistically excellent, and I wish that today’s mainstream movies could feature a message like this and still have a chance of winning eight Oscars like this one did (plus several other nominations, including one for Malden as Best Supporting Actor) . With few exceptions, mainstream film paints Christians in a very bad light. This kind of convincing, respectful portrayal of a devout Christian as a central hero is refreshing, to say the least:

Hearing the priest’s convicting words makes me wonder how God feels about the “silence” of the Church when it comes to the corruption of our society—corruption of education, corruption of morals, even corruption within the Church itself. That’s food for thought today.

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  • William Luse

    What a scene. And what a lineup: Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden (who was so good in so many things). Can’t remember the blonde’s name.

  • I know. I believe that Cobb, Steiger, and Malden were ALL nominated for Best Supporting Actor. As sometimes happens in political elections, they split the vote among themselves, thereby opening the door for someone else to win (not sure who at the moment).
    The blonde girl is Eva Saint Marie, and she won Best Supporting Actress. I thought her performance was excellent—very pure, with just the right blend of innocence and determination.

  • William Luse

    Eva Saint Marie. How could I forget? Also starred in North by Northwest.

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  • Are you doing any NQC Coverage

  • Ron, take a look at the most recent posts. 🙂