Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Father Corridan - The Real Waterfront Priest

The photo above is of John "Pete" Corridan, the "Waterfront Priest,” testifying before a Senate Commerce Committee investigating waterfront crime in the late 1940’s.

If you have ever seen the film “On the Waterfront” with Karl Malden as the crusading Priest Father Barry, then you need to know that he was not a totally fictitious character. As a matter of fact, that soliloquy which he gives in the hold of the ship where Dugan is killed by the falling cargo was actually spoken by a Father Corridan who was the real life inspiration for the film version of the Priest.

Here is the portion of one of Father Corridan’s addresses to the men which inspired Bud Schulberg’s version;

“I suppose some people would smirk at the thought of Christ in the shape-up. It is about as absurd as the fact that He carried carpenter’s tools in His hands and earned His bread by the sweat of His brow. As absurd as the fact that Christ redeemed all men irrespective of their race, color, or station in life. It can be absurd only to those of whom Christ has said, ‘Having eyes, they see not; and having ears, they hear not.’ Because they don’t want to see or hear. Christ also said, ‘If you do it to the least of mine, you do it to me.’ So Christ is in the shape-up.”

Father Corridan gave the speech at a meeting in the Union trade school across the river in New Jersey, not in the hold of a cargo ship. But his words were almost identical. "The speech was written more by Father Corridan than me," writer Bud Schulberg said. "Eighty percent of it was his words."

Schulberg was soon treated to a tour of the waterfront by one of Corridan's longshoremen, a man named Arthur "Brownie" Brown. Schulberg became an admirer of the Priest and described him as “the greatest individual I have ever known.”

For more about Father Corridan use this link;

And here is Karl Malden delivering Bud Schulberg's version of Father Corridan's speech in the film "On the Waterfront";

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