Edge of the City (1957)

85 mins | Drama | 4 January 1957

Director:

Martin Ritt

Producer:

David Susskind

Cinematographer:

Joseph Brun

Editor:

Sidney Meyers

Production Designer:

Richard Sylbert

Production Companies:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp., Jonathan Productions, Inc.
Full page view
HISTORY

The working title of this film was A Man Is Ten Feet Tall . Author Robert Alan Aurthur and producer David Susskind also made the television drama upon which this film is based, A Man Is Ten Feet Tall . Aurthur is credited onscreen only as the film's writer, however. The teleplay starred Sidney Poitier, and in his autobiography, Poitier noted that in order to be hired for the part, NBC's legal department required that he sign a statement repudiating his relationships with Paul Robeson and Canada Lee, whom the legal department had deemed to be "dangerous people." After Poitier refused, Aurthur and others worked out a compromise that allowed him to take the role. Another modern source states that Poitier's appearance in A Man Is Ten Feet Tall marked the first time that a black actor was cast in major role in a television drama, and that when the teleplay was aired, Philco received numerous complaints and threats of cancellation. According to Poitier's autobiography, the complaints were partly directed at Hilda Simms, the actress who played his wife, a very light-skinned black woman who looked white.
       The film version of Edge of the City was shot on location in Brooklyn and Harlem. The Var review commented that the picture was a "milestone" in cinema history because it showed a black man as "a fully-integrated, first-class citizen," rather than as a "problem." The review goes on to suggest, however, that the representation of equality between whites and blacks in the film might raise the issue of how the film should be marketed in the South, "in light of ... More Less

The working title of this film was A Man Is Ten Feet Tall . Author Robert Alan Aurthur and producer David Susskind also made the television drama upon which this film is based, A Man Is Ten Feet Tall . Aurthur is credited onscreen only as the film's writer, however. The teleplay starred Sidney Poitier, and in his autobiography, Poitier noted that in order to be hired for the part, NBC's legal department required that he sign a statement repudiating his relationships with Paul Robeson and Canada Lee, whom the legal department had deemed to be "dangerous people." After Poitier refused, Aurthur and others worked out a compromise that allowed him to take the role. Another modern source states that Poitier's appearance in A Man Is Ten Feet Tall marked the first time that a black actor was cast in major role in a television drama, and that when the teleplay was aired, Philco received numerous complaints and threats of cancellation. According to Poitier's autobiography, the complaints were partly directed at Hilda Simms, the actress who played his wife, a very light-skinned black woman who looked white.
       The film version of Edge of the City was shot on location in Brooklyn and Harlem. The Var review commented that the picture was a "milestone" in cinema history because it showed a black man as "a fully-integrated, first-class citizen," rather than as a "problem." The review goes on to suggest, however, that the representation of equality between whites and blacks in the film might raise the issue of how the film should be marketed in the South, "in light of the current tension over integration." In a modern interview, director Martin Ritt recalled that "Tommy Tyler's" death sparked a near riot in one theater where the film was shown.
       According to correspondence in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA was worried about the possibility that John Cassavetes' character "Axel Nordmann" might be viewed as homosexual. In a letter dated 16 Mar 1956 to producer Susskind, PCA official Geoffrey Shurlock cited as problematic Axel's "almost psychopathic aversion to women," and requested that a scene be cut in which Axel demonstrates "a rather unusual reaction to the couple he sees necking in the movie." He also asked Susskind to remove a moment of dialogue in which "Malik" teases Axel and Tommy by announcing to the work crew that they are getting married. Neither of these scenes appears in the finished film. Edge of the City was the first film venture for Susskind, Aurthur and Ritt who, prior to this project, worked in television and theater. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 Jan 1957.
---
Daily Variety
26 Dec 56
p. 3
Film Daily
3 Jan 57
p. 8.
Harrison's Reports
29 Dec 56
p. 206.
Hollywood Reporter
18 May 56
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Apr 56
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
26 Dec 56
p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily
27 Dec 1956.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
29 Dec 56
p. 201.
New York Times
30 Jan 57
p. 33.
The Exhibitor
9 Jan 57
pp. 4273-74.
Variety
22 Aug 1956.
---
Variety
2 Jan 57
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
Story and scr
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
SOUND
MAKEUP
PRODUCTION MISC
Titles des by
Scr supv
Casting
Prod coordinator
Exec asst to the prod
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the teleplay "A Man Is Ten Feet Tall" by Robert Alan Aurthur on Philco Television Playhouse (NBC, 2 Oct 1955).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
A Man Is Ten Feet Tall
Release Date:
4 January 1957
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 20 March 1957
Production Date:
late March--late May 1956
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
26 December 1956
Copyright Number:
LP7542
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
85
Length(in feet):
7,662
Length(in reels):
9
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18313
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Axel Nordmann, a troubled young man, arrives one evening at a New York City freight train depot looking for a job. When the night watchman tells him he has to wait until the morning, Axel falls asleep in the yard, and the next morning is woken up by Tommy Tyler, a kindly black stevedore, who befriends him. When Axel asks to speak to Charles Malik, Malik pretends to recognize him and hires him, aware that Ed Favors, a mutual friend with illicit connections, has sent him. Axel joins Malik's crew as a stevedore and quickly learns that he is required to give Malik a portion of his earnings in exchange for having received the job. Malik, a racist, also demands that Axel stay away from Tommy if he wants to continue to work. When Tommy offers to help Axel find an apartment in his neighborhood, Axel at first angrily refuses, but then accepts his kindness. The next day, Tommy gives Axel his very own stevedore's hook and has him transferred to his own gang. Malik begins to taunt Axel, who has been calling himself Axel North, about his dealings with Favors, and Axel decides to be honest with Tommy by telling him his real name and that he is from Gary, Indiana. Later, at a bar, Axel tells Tommy about the tragedy that ruined his life: After the death of his much-loved brother Andy, who was killed in a car accident while Axel was driving, his father, a strict police officer, blamed Axel for killing his favorite son. One night, Axel has dinner with Tommy, his wife Lucy, and their friend, ... +


Axel Nordmann, a troubled young man, arrives one evening at a New York City freight train depot looking for a job. When the night watchman tells him he has to wait until the morning, Axel falls asleep in the yard, and the next morning is woken up by Tommy Tyler, a kindly black stevedore, who befriends him. When Axel asks to speak to Charles Malik, Malik pretends to recognize him and hires him, aware that Ed Favors, a mutual friend with illicit connections, has sent him. Axel joins Malik's crew as a stevedore and quickly learns that he is required to give Malik a portion of his earnings in exchange for having received the job. Malik, a racist, also demands that Axel stay away from Tommy if he wants to continue to work. When Tommy offers to help Axel find an apartment in his neighborhood, Axel at first angrily refuses, but then accepts his kindness. The next day, Tommy gives Axel his very own stevedore's hook and has him transferred to his own gang. Malik begins to taunt Axel, who has been calling himself Axel North, about his dealings with Favors, and Axel decides to be honest with Tommy by telling him his real name and that he is from Gary, Indiana. Later, at a bar, Axel tells Tommy about the tragedy that ruined his life: After the death of his much-loved brother Andy, who was killed in a car accident while Axel was driving, his father, a strict police officer, blamed Axel for killing his favorite son. One night, Axel has dinner with Tommy, his wife Lucy, and their friend, Ellen Wilson, a white social worker who, like Lucy, is well-educated and motivated by leftist political causes. The four go dancing at a Latin nightclub, and when Axel is recognized by a drunken soldier, he flees in embarrassment. Sometime later as Axel is beginning to benefit from Tommy's philosophy that he must behave like "a man ten feet tall," Malik continues to taunt Axel with oblique references to his past. Axel finally confesses to Tommy the whole story: He enlisted in the Army as a way of dignifying himself in his family's eyes, but then deserted because the sergeant criticized him unrelentingly. Tommy tells Axel that he will always stand by him, and later Ellen, with whom Axel has fallen in love, also pledges her support. At work, Axel decides finally to stand up to Malik and the two begin to fight. Tommy intervenes and when Malik makes a racist comment to him, the two longtime enemies go at it with their stevedore's hooks. Tommy is stabbed in the back and dies in Axel's arms. When the police detective arrives, all the workers deny having seen anything, and Axel, too, keeps quiet. Axel goes home and calls his parents for the first time in years and tells them that he wants to come home. Before Axel leaves for Gary, he goes to see Lucy, who insists on knowing how Tommy was killed. When Axel finally tells her haltingly that Tommy was killed in a fight, she screams at him for not going to the police and then kicks him out. Prompted by Ellen to do what is right, Axel goes back to work, has the detective called, and tells Malik that he is going to turn him in. Malik grabs his hook and the two engage in a vicious fight, which Axel finally wins. Axel then drags Tommy's murderer to the detective, as the other workers watch and follow. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

TOP SEARCHES

CASABLANCA

During World War II, Casablanca, Morocco is a waiting point for throngs of desperate refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe. Exit visas, which are necessary to leave the country, are at ... >>

CITIZEN KANE

Seventy-year-old newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane dies in his palatial Florida home, Xanadu, after uttering the single word “Rosebud.” While watching a newsreel summarizing the years during which Kane ... >>

REAR WINDOW

Laid up with a broken leg during the height of summer, renowned New York magazine photographer L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries enters his last week of home confinement, bored and ... >>

RAGING BULL

In 1941, at a boxing match in Cleveland, Ohio, pandemonium breaks out when Jake La Motta, an up-and-coming young boxer, loses a decision to Jimmy Reeves, suffering his first ... >>

CITY LIGHTS

At an outdoor dedication ceremony, a tramp is discovered sleeping in the arms of a statue as it is being unveiled before a crowd. He is chased into ... >>

The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.