“Edge of the City” Review – Sidney Poitier (Summer Under the Stars #3)
Thoughts on Sidney:
I’m ashamed to say I haven’t seen that many of Sidney Poitier’s movies yet and I’m hoping to change that! He’s been such a captivating screen presence in the films I’ve seen so far and I really admire how much of an impact he has made on people.
TCM Movie Schedule:
- Edge of the City
- Blackboard Jungle
- Good-Bye, My Lady
- Band of Angels
- Duel at Diablo
- The Bedford Incident
- A Warm December
- A Raisin in the Sun
- Pressure Point
- Buck and the Preacher
- Uptown Saturday Night
Axel North (John Cassavetes) has just moved to New York City and gets a job as a stevedore. He’s immediately taken under the wing of Tommy Tyler (Sidney Poitier). They become close friends and navigate their love lives and struggles with the big boss (Jack Warden).
I wanted to like this movie more than I did. It had some great elements, but also failed on several. Cassavetes and Poitier had amazing chemistry and all of their scenes together were incredibly natural. Axel was canonically gay in the original screenplay, but no thanks to the Hays Code, that element of his character was toned down considerably. There’s still quite a lot of queer subtext though, which is certainly welcome from me.
The film is more of a character and commentary piece, so the pacing is often slow and can be hard to get into. The first half is quite enjoyable, as we learn more about Axel and his mysterious past, and see him and Tommy hanging out and having a good time.
It takes a sharp turn around an hour in, that is quite unexpected and frankly, unneeded. Without getting into spoilers, I found this part of the plot to be a cheap way to make some “commentary” on some of the tensions going on within the community of dock workers. It felt like a heavy-handed way to try and say something meaningful that ended up just feeling exploitative.
The rest of the film is thrown out of whack because of this moment, going way too dark compared to the first half. There’s a tonal whiplash that just doesn’t fit.
Too much time is spent with the evil boss at the docks, so it feels like a rip-off of On The Waterfront, which was released just 3 years earlier. The movie really comes alive when the two leads are together, or when they’re going on dates with Tommy’s wife Lucy (Ruby Dee) and Axel’s girlfriend Ellen (Kathleen Maguire). The four of them are so much fun to watch together.
The film looks great; a majority of it was shot on location in New York City. That really adds to the grittiness and realism of the story. The settings feel like an integral part of the story. Plus, the cinematography is visually pleasing and makes good use of the black-and-white coloring.
A lot of the plot points feel very surface level. We learn a little bit about Tommy and his family, though they’re relatively unimportant compared to Axel within the narrative. The scenes when Axel talks with his parents on the phone are very emotional, but his struggles with them should have been delved into more deeply.
Normally, I love Leonard Rosenman’s scores (like East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause), but the music was more distracting and overbearing in Edge of the City. Scenes when it should have just been quiet or had slightly ominous music were extremely loud and brash. There were a lot of awkward musical choices.
Overall, there were a lot of great things about this film, namely Cassavetes and Poitier, but some of the story-telling elements were outdated and just didn’t work for me.
- Favorite Scene:
- Favorite Character: Tommy Tyler
- Favorite Quote:
“The thing is T….. a guy’s gotta do something before somebody can love him.”
“Now where’d you get a crazy idea like that?”
- Poitier’s Performance: He’s super charming and likable in this, plus he has like 3 dance scenes. I’d give his performance a 4/5.
- Would I Recommend? If you like either of the lead performers or films about racial/social commentary, then yes. Otherwise, I’d probably skip it.
audrey cornell View All
Audrey is a self-proclaimed film buff who loves to watch, read, and write about movies. Her passions include queer & feminist studies, watching obscure 80s/90s and Old Hollywood films, and discovering new music. She also writes for Scribe Magazine. Check out her podcast about actors who died young!
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