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"The Docks of New York" (1928) Josef Von Sternberg


In 1928, Josef Von Sternberg released one of his top films “The Docks of New York”. This film was unique because the plot and the acting were the key components of the success of this film. In the 1920s, people got married more quickly than in today’s society, however the lovefest in this film was quite deviant for the 1920s and today’s society. Despite the title name, the main character, Bill who was working on a ship as a stoker was only supposed to make a stop in New York as a part of his job. Instead, Bill got off the ship, partied and met a girl named Mae in New York, where he fell in love with her instantly.


Mae was a prostitute that attempted to commit suicide by drowning in the river. Bill watched her attempt and he saved her and placed her in bed to recover. While Mae was recovering, Bill gave her given drinks and cigarettes to attempt her to recover quicker. Also, Bill gave her fresh clean clothes, which he had stollen from a clothing store. Following the recovery, Bill took Mae to a dance party. At the dance party, a relationship was foiled by his boss, Andy and his wife, Lou, where Andy convinced Mae to go away from Bill. Also, Lou was disrespectful towards Mae once Andy told Lou about the affair they had. At the end of the dance party, Bill and Mae got married immediately, which lead to many conflicts throughout the remainder of the film.


The key points of this movie were that the acting, plot and setting were the main components of the movie. There were very few special video effects, and this movie focused on the story and the actor’s actions. The movie is straightforward in terms of the actor’s actions and their roles. In this version, there was music that synced up with all of the actions going on between Bill, Mae, Andy and Lou. Also, Bill’s goal was very unexpected because he was on the ship when he watched and saved Mae attempting to commit suicide. Following Mae’s recovery, she and Bill went out and had fun in New York instead of Bill staying on the ship to continue working because it was leaving the next morning. Bill got back on the ship the next morning seemingly negating the wedding. As the ship was departing New York. the entire plot turned the opposite direction.


This film gave viewers a great representation of how the working-class people engaged socially in New York’s waterfront area. This was an ironic love story, where the goals of the characters changed throughout the movie.

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