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15
Edge of the City
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 27, 2011
"Edge of the City" is one of the first black and white buddy films. Prior to this, blacks and whites in films were antagonists or master/slave. But the treatment emerged in 1955 on TV when such classic live dramas as "Studio One", "Playhouse 90" and "Philco Television Playhouse" dealt with far more liberal topics. The original TV drama was written by Robert Alan Arthur ("Grand Prix", "All That Jazz") and starred Sidney Poitier and Don Murray. TV Producer David Susskind ("The Glass Menagerie", "Eleanor and Franklin") brought it to the big screen, keeping Poitier but replacing Warden with John Cassavetes, and Susskind hired blacklisted director Martin Ritt.

Poitier (1927 - ) had been in several films in the early 50s and in 1955 "Blackboard Jungle" was a big hit and propelled him into stardom, earning him the role in the TV program and the subsequent film. AFI ranks him #22 in the list of Greatest Male Stars.

John Cassavetes (1929-89) was a pioneer of the cinema verite genre, as an actor and a director. He's probably best known for his Oscar nominated role in "The Dirty Dozen" (1967) or as the husband in "Rosemary's Baby" (1968), but these were the roles he took to make the money he needed to produce the films he wanted to make, such as "Faces" (1968), "Husbands" (1970), "A Woman Under the Influence", and "Gloria" (1980).

Jack Warden (1920-2006) plays a racist dock worker who is blackmailing Cassavetes. He was twice nominated for an Oscar ("Heaven Can Wait", "Shampoo") and three times for an Emmy ("Brian's Song", "Crazy Like a Fox"). He made more than 50 films between 1950 and 2000, but I remember him best in "Twelve Angry Men" (1957).

Ruby Dee (1924 - 2014) plays Poitier's wife. She is probably the most prolific Black actress in Hollywood history, having made more than 50 films and as many TV appearances. TV viewers will remember her best as Mother Freemantle from "The Stand" (1994) and movie goers for "A Raisin in the Sun" (1961), also with Poitier. She was nominated for an Oscar for "American Gangster" (2007), won an ACE for "Long Day's Journey Into Night" (1962) and was nominated for an Emmy 6 times, winning once ("Decoration Day" in 1990).

One of the key elements of the film, in addition to being the first black/white buddy film is that it portrayed a black middle class family in a wholesome manner. Black families were rarely depicted prior to this film, and more often than not, were connected with the old stereotypes.

In 1957 the top grossing films were "Bridge on the River Kwai", "Peyton Place", "Sayonara", "Old Yeller" and "Raintree County". The Oscars went to "Bridge" (Picture, Director, Actor), "Three Faces of Eve" (Actress), and "Sayonara" (Supporting Actor and Actress). Other notable films released that year included "12 Angry Men" (with Jack Warden), "The Enemy Below", Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd", "Fear Strikes Out", "Heaven Knows Mr. Allison", "The Joker is Wild", "Pal Joey", Kubrick's "Paths of Glory", Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" and "Wild Strawberries", "Sweet Smell of Success", and "Witness for the Prosecution". "Edge of the City" was the only film that year to feature a black leading actor.

This is a good film. The black and white photography is crisp and often intimate (a style Cassavetes would perfect in later years). Martin Ritt keeps the action moving, and the performances from everyone are stellar. If the film has any fault it is the musical score that pounds at you to the point of annoyance. More than anything else this appears to be a carryover from the TV production and possibly a result of composer Leonard Rosenman (1924-2008) philosophy - "I try to enter directly into the movie's plot"

The film was a critical success but failed at the box office and received no major award nominations in the US. But the following year, Poitier co-starred with Tony Curtis in "The Defiant Ones", and this film not only did well at the box office but it achieved a slew of awards and nominations. One can't help but imagine the "Edge of the City" set the stage for "The Defiant Ones" reception.

This film definitely deserves a look, not merely because it's a good film, but because it represents a breakthrough in many respects. Poitier, Cassavetes, Warden, and Lee were all launched to new levels in their careers. Martin Ritt got the chance to re-launch his career and went on to greater success. And more importantly, this film was a lynchpin for the improvement in the portrayal of blacks in film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2014
Before Sidney Poitier became a household name he made this thrilling 1957 film with John Cassavetes. Life on the lam as an Army deserter is no picnic for Alex Nordmann (John Cassavetes). Combine that with life in New York City as a longshoreman who is beholden to a kick-back creep of a foreman, Charlie Malik (Jack Warden), for his job and you've got trouble. Malik knows that Alex is a deserter and never lets him forget it. Tommy Tyler (Sidney Poitier) is another type of foreman on the docks of this bustling railroad yard where sweat and back breaking work is the name of the game. Tommy is upbeat, honest and sees the world as a place to live a good life. His wife, Lucy (Ruby Dee), is his safe haven and together with his only child, enjoy a peaceful existence of life in the neighborhoods of NYC. Tommy sees Alex under the thumb of this brutal man and wants to help if he can. He befriends Alex and gets him reassigned to work on his crew. Trouble starts because Charlie is now at odds with Tommy and not only because he is trying to take away his kick-backs....Tommy is black and Charlie is a no holds barred bigot who tries every manner of insult and threat to get Alex back on his crew. Life has begun to be good for Alex despite the troubles on the job. He's made a good friend in Tommy, spends leisure time with Tommy and his wife, Lucy, and through them he has even been introduced to a well educated but lonely woman in the bargain. What ensues is classic New York City in the 50's type violence...racial tension combined with personal vendettas puts the three men in a final fight for truth, right and survival. This is a Cassavetes film that will serve as a chilling reminder of what life was...and not all that long ago, on the streets of the most fabled city in the land. It's a story you won't soon forget and the performances of the entire cast are brilliant. I urge you to see it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2012
edge of the city is a class act from two of hollywoods finest actors,sidney poitier and an actor well before his time john cassavetes ,(you may well remember him as the husband in rosemarys baby).the story is basicaly a budy movie but sells its story very well indeed,hard hitting,well acted,good direction, this is the kind of gritty movie mgm should have made more of.as soon as the movie starts you know you are in for a good story,and you certainly get your moneys worth,it was filmed in black and white and is all the better for it.the print used for this release begins with the credits background looking a little soft and hazy but things soon pick up after the credits are over,if you like a hard hitting story,convincing acting,then this is for you.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2012
This is a must-see film for those who appreciate the struggles of interacial relationships and the working class. Not that this movie is specifically about interacial friendship, it just so happens that the main characters are black and white - the bonds of friendship and caring in the situations that they face could have been about any races, however, the external factors that surround these characters are devastaing, with the climax driven by racism. Well-directed, well-acted by all, and gritty, it is a great movie - we had seen it many years ago and now we own it. Was delivered new and on-time, as expected.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 30, 2012
John Cassavetes the director is a man I admire a lot. The work that he was able to put out with his sensational wife Gena Rowlands is unforgettable and for that he will always be remembered and respected. John Cassavetes the actor is a man I am unfamiliar with. I know that he started acting and moved on to directing later in his career (not much later, but later) but I've yet to see much of his acting work, outside of `Rosemary's Baby' where he is far from the film's standout. In exploring the film year that was 1957, I stumbled across a sensational, gritty little film called `Edge of the City'; a film that until last weekend I had never heard of. I was excited to see it, since it starred Cassavetes and so I was interested to see how he stacked up as an actor.

Honestly, he was not the standout here either, although his slow burn of isolated depression leaves a lasting impression.

`Edge of the City' tells the story of Axel, a soldier gone AWOL who is running away from his decision and winds up working as a New York City longshoreman thanks to the aid of a bigoted foreman who desires to control Axel through intimidation. Axel is befriended by Tommy, a black man who takes Axel under his wing and truly becomes his friend. When tensions rise at work, it threatens the stability that Axel was beginning to build in his life and soon things spiral out of control to the point of tragedy.

The atmosphere created by director Martin Ritt is flawless. The way he works with his cast is also notable. The entire cast is great here, outside of Kathleen Maguire, who oversells her big moment and made me want to slap her. Sidney Poitier is astonishing as Tommy, giving so much charm and heart to his spirited performance. Jack Warden is memorably evil; building such intensity and loathing out of his hateful character. Ruby Dee also shines, both in her softer scenes and then later in the more dynamic ones as well. I was also really moved by Ruth White's few scenes as Axel's mother. The way she flooded emotions during those phone calls was so touching and believable.

`Edge of the City' is a sensational film, one that unearths real grit and realism and creates something provoking to the core.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2009
Gripping drama set in New York's shipping docks. Cassavetes and Poitier are fantastic together as friends struggling to get by in a tough world. Wonderful editing and production.....characters are deep and the plot is excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2013
I recommend this to anyone who likes action movies. If you like Sidney, you will enjoy this movie. It was reasonably prices and arrived in just a few days.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 1, 2009
If you get the chance, Edge of the City (1957) is a film that is worth seeing. At present, it's not readily available on DVD, except as part of a set. Your best bet to catch this drama that stars John Cassavetes (The Dirty Dozen), Sidney Poiter (To Sir With Love), and Jack Warden (Shampoo, Crazy Like a Fox), might be when it runs on TCM.

Cassavetes is Axel Nordmann, an army deserter on the run, who arrives in New York City, and gets a job at the railroad station, loading cargo under foreman Charlie Malik (Warden). Tommy Tyler (Poiter) who also works at the station, befriends the wary Nordmann, introducing to him this wife (Ruby Dee) and family. For a brief moment, life is very good, as Nordmann has a girlfriend (Kathleen Maguire) and a new start in life, when tragedy suddenly strikes.

Director Martin Ritt, whose many credits include The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965), and Norma Rae (1979), does a fine job in his directorial debut, including shooting fight scenes with metal hooks. Cassavetes and Potier work together very well, and the supporting cast is also very solid. A tale of warm interracial friendship may not seem remarkable today, but it certainly was more significant back then. When the racially motivated violence that is hinted at earlier in the story, unexpectedly erupts, many lives are destroyed, and Axel Nordmann must decide whether to keep running or take a stand.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2011
I saw this picture many years ago on tv and searched for it ever since, but had little joy through British sources.
It wasn't quite as I remembered it but was still a joy to watch for its genuine,atmospheric New York locations.
I watched it immediately prior to viewing On the Waterfront in order to make comparisons. whilst the subjects were quite different, I got that distinct feeling that I was there on the New York dockside witnessing the goings on.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2013
i have always been an avid fan of Sidney Poitier. i have never seen him give a greater performance than this one. as soon as this one surfaced on dvd-r i snatched it up. i knew that it wouldn't make it to standard dvd. it is a rare gem in filmmaking. it is one of my absolute favorites. enjoy it immensely. i do.

picure and sound are great. well worth the price.
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