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JESUITICA: The waterfront priest

waterfront_01One of the most positive depictions of a Catholic priest in the movies can be found in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront (1954). Father Barry (played by Karl Malden), incensed by corruption and violence in the mob-run longshoreman’s union, puts pressure on young Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) to do the right thing and give evidence against the union boss. The script was written by Budd Schulberg, who based Father Barry on a Harlem-born Jesuit, Fr John Corridan. Fr Corridan hadĀ long and successfully combatted the gangsters who controlled the piers of New York Harbour. Schulberg described him as a “tall, youthful, balding, energetic, ruddy-faced Irishman whose speech was a fascinating blend of Hell’s Kitchen jargon, baseball slang, the facts and figures of a master in economics and the undeniable humanity of Christ.”