Finding Fred Gwynne

Or, rather, finding Fred Gwynne in a movie starring Marlon Brando, which requires my eyes to wander and look at someone else besides Marlon Brando. Scientists sometimes refer to this behavior as “unnatural.”

The Munsters came to my house for Christmas, and watching the show again prompted me to look up ol’ Herman Munster, Fred Gwynne. I was surprised to discover that his career included an uncredited bit part in On the Waterfront.

I love On the Waterfront.

File On the Waterfront under Films I Could Watch Every Day For The Rest Of My Life And Still Never Tire Of.

So how did I not know that Fred Gwynne was in this movie? Marlon Brando, duh. When I saw On the Waterfront at the local theatre as part of its ongoing Celebrating the Classics series, the film was preceded by an introduction by a local film aficionado/critic/historian à la Robert Osborne. This man told us all kinds of interesting bits of trivia and anecdotes about the film, and he left us with a challenge to watch any one else in the film besides Brando, who, of course, gives an electrifying performance. I felt no need to accept that challenge (who wants to watch anyone except Brando in this–or any–film?)–until I learned of Fred Gwynne’s role.


There he is! Gwynne plays one of Johnny Friendly’s henchmen. There’s so many of them, he is easily overlooked, but once you know to look for him, he’s just as easily found.


Annnnnd there he is again. Herman! 


And in case you’re blind and still not convinced that that is indeed Fred Gwynne, he utters a single line, albeit offscreen, during an argument with Friendly’s banker and another henchman, “That’s why I never got married.” Herman Munster speaks!


There he is again, preparing to throw a can or something at Father Barry (Karl Malden), who is speaking about how longshoreman Kayo Dugan’s death is akin to the crucifixion of Christ and how anyone who knows anything about his or Joey Doyle’s death is complicit in that crucifixion. You can see the effect of his words on Terry Malloy (Brando), who is torn between what he feels should be his loyalty to Friendly and his moral conscience.


Yup. That’s him. In the hat. Er, on the left.


And one last final appearance. Here he is, preventing anyone from interfering in the climatic fight between Friendly and Malloy. Ain’t no one gettin’ past Herman!

On the Waterfront is a perfect film, a film so perfect I’ll have to gush about it properly (i.e. devoting thousands of words to Brando’s every movement in the film) in another post. But I do believe its perfection has been heightened by the small discovery that it features Fred Gwynne. Definitely! 



Bless. Your. Face.

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