“I could have been a contender,” said Marlon Brando as he improvised his lines for his character, Terry Malloy, in the seven-time Academy Award winner film On the Waterfront (On the Waterfront). Marlon Brando used improvisation throughout the film to create a truly unique, unprecedented character.  In the film, Terry Malloy transforms from a non-ambitious follower to a strong, independent hero. Terry Malloy’s transformation is not credited to his own revelations but rather is driven by the role he has in Joey Doyle’s death, his love for Edie Doyle, the strong pressure of Father Barry, and the eventual death of his brother, Charlie Malloy.

        At the beginning of the film, Terry Malloy is portrayed as a character without any drive in life. He devotes his time, energy, and passion towards his pigeon racing rather than a steady job. Marlon Brando takes it upon himself to imbue a further characterization of Terry’s character. Terry is usually fidgeting with his hands in his pockets, playing with his hair, or his signature nervous gesture of putting his hand behind his head. He often looks away from the character he is talking to by finding another focal point such as the zipper on his jacket or a piece of lint. It is clear Terry does not have much direction or any assertive qualities. His first internal conflict in the movie is his unintentional involvement in Joey Doyle’s death.  Although he is torn up over the incident, he does not question Johnny Friendly on the matter but continues to follow Friendly’s lead. Another noteworthy detail hinted at in the beginning is Terry’s background as a boxer. Terry’s history as a boxer will continue to be hinted at for much of the movie until its significance is finally revealed.

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As the movie progresses Terry begins to develop his consciences. A string of events force Terry to come clean. Among the most influential of these events are his encounters with Edie Doyle, sister of Joey Doyle. Edie is the first person in the movie to show belief in Terry; she brings out a side of him that the audience has not seen. Terry’s love for her is so strong he reveals to her what he did to her brother. This is the first sign that Terry is developing a sense of moral righteousness. While telling Edie, Terry’s demeanor begins to ...

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