Who can forget Marlon Brando at his method-acting best? “I could have been a contender ... but let's face it, I'm just a bum...” - that became one of the most acclaimed, studied, imitated and inspiring monologues in the entire history of film. It was also good for four nominations at the Globes and four wins for On The Waterfront: Best Picture – Drama, Best Director, Elia Kazan, Best Actor, Brando, and Best Cinematography – Black and White by Boris Kaufman. The story of an ex prizefighter who becomes a longshoreman and struggles to stand up to his corrupt bosses during a union fight became a classic and one of the most celebrated films of the era. Kazan's direction of this realistic drama has been revered and closely analyzed for decades.
The12th Golden Globe Awards were held on February 24, 1955, at the Cocoanut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel. Grace Kelly won as Best Actress Drama for The Country Girl, while Judy Garland won in the comedy section for A Star is Born (James Mason won for the same movie). It was also the year Shirley MacLaine was awarded the Globe as Best Promising Newcomer (for The Trouble with Harry), splendidly fulfilling that promise.
On The Waterfront was shot in black and white entirely on location in New Jersey (mainly Hoboken and its waterfront), adding to the intensity and realism of this working-class drama which also starred Karl Malden, Rod Steiger and Eva Marie Saint and was adapted by Budd Schulberg from his original story (and related articles – it was based on actual reporting about corruption in the harbor workers' union).
For Brando, this was the first of his five career Golden Globe wins (out of ten nominations). The last one for him at the Globes was a special Henrietta Award as World Film Favorite – Male, in 1974, right after his win (Best Actor) for The Godfather (in 1973). Brando always maintained that his work on On The Waterfront, alongside A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), also directed by Kazan, were his best works as an actor, and that's what he said at the Globe award ceremony in front of an adoring crowd. “And I couldn't have done it without the amazing guidance by the great Elia Kazan, who understands me and my potential better than myself,” Brando said receiving his Golden Globe.