On the Waterfront: Making of Classic Drama

Eva Marie Saint made her feature film debut in On the Waterfront (1954), starring Marlon Brando and directed by Elia Kazan,a performance for which she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.

Her performance in the role of Edie Doyle (whose brother’s death sets the film’s drama in motion), which she won over such leading contenders as Claire Trevor, Nina Foch, Katy Jurado and Jan Sterling, also earned her a British Academy of Film and Television Award nomination for “Most Promising Newcomer.”

In his review for the New York Times, film critic A. H. Weiler wrote, “In casting Eva Marie Saint—a newcomer to movies from TV and Broadway—Mr. Kazan has come up with a pretty and blond artisan who does not have to depend on these attributes. Her parochial school training is no bar to love with the proper stranger. Amid scenes of carnage, she gives tenderness and sensitivity to genuine romance.”

In a 2000 interview in Premiere magazine, Saint recalled making the film: “Elia] Kazan put me in a room with Marlon Brando. He said ‘Brando is the boyfriend of your sister. You’re not used to being with a young man. Don’t let him in the door under any circumstances.’ I don’t know what he told Marlon; you’ll have to ask him—good luck! Brando came in and started teasing me. He put me off balance. And I remained off balance for the whole shoot.”

Upward Mobility:

A major success, On the Waterfront launched Saint’s movie career, even though she was only paid $7,500.

She next appeared alongside Bob Hope in That Certain Feeling for which she received $50,000. She was then offered $100,000 to star in the lavish Civil War epic Raintree County (1957) with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. She next starred with Don Murray in “A Hatful of Rain,” the drug-addiction drama, made later than Raintree Country but released earlier in 1957.