The Docks of New York - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Docks of New York Reviews

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hunterjt13
Super Reviewer
November 2, 2013
A ship worker falls for a suicidal woman.
Much of George Bancroft's performance as Bill Roberts is spent strutting and posing with a masculine air that borders on satire, and the plot of the film is victim to silent film's inability to express full character interaction: if this is a love story, it's a love that the audience must endow with its own background and motivations.
However, the film is a technical achievement. The cinematography is beautiful, and while Bill is a tough guy to like, there's enough compassion in him that we can find ourselves siding with him. This is a seedy world, and director Joseph von Sternberg presents it in all its bleak charm. There aren't many good guys, so von Sternberg makes the bad guys all themore interesting.
Overall, this is a solid and remarkable film but not without its flaws.
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2011
In "The Docks of New York," Bill Roberts(George Bancroft) is a stoker on board of a steamboat that is about to dock for a night in New York. As such, he has plans but is warned not to be late for the boat's departure in the morning. Those same plans hit a snag when Bill dives into the harbor to rescue Mae(Betty Compson) who just tried to kill herself. As she recovers her wits, they get to know each other. Just after he shows off his tattoos, she pops the question.

"The Docks of New York" is an engrossing and lively film about people in the lowest rungs of life who are not so much given a reprieve, but just the barest glimmer of hope. At the start, Mae has given up on any possibilties for her future while Bill takes advantage of whatever fun he can find for himself, when he is not at his grueling job, to enjoy himself and forget everything else. All of which is set in a close knit community of people who look out for each other when they have nothing else.
August 23, 2010
If the characters in this movie thought they had it bad in 1928, they should have waited a year. As it stands, a basic movie of rough man and tainted lady getting married a few hours after they met.
October 7, 2008
Simply one of the most visually stunning silents ever. Unlike the other Sternbergs I've seen this one often goes for a more of gritty, realistic aesthetic instead of the heavily stylized sets in The Scarlet Empress. The beginning of the film was so gorgeous and evocative (has there ever been a more poetic suicide scene?) that the more character and story focused parts after that failed to live up to the towering expectations the beginning set up. It doesn't mean that those parts were bad in anyway, in fact the characters and their relationships are quite affecting and well handled, I just wished that more of that smoky atmospheric night scenes where Sternberg can show off his brilliant lighting techniques.
January 24, 2016
With an artistic and poetic approach to it, a wonderful romance, such lovable characters, terrific performances from its talented cast, deft editing, just beautiful score, playful dialogue, brilliant cinematography and a big heart at its core, The Docks of New York is a beautiful movie that is always charming and enjoyable to watch, while also being a work of art. It is an undisputed masterpiece that is one of the best silent films as well as one of the most romantic movies ever made.
February 11, 2015
"I guess I'd wait for you forever Bill" awwhhhh great movie
½ June 7, 2014
A semi simple story told very well. There ares several elements of this film that are very effective at tugging at your emotions. I could understand the guff blue collar "stoker" (one who shovels coal on boats) having his mainly lone wolf exterior attempted to be (an eventually successfully) penetrated by a weak delicate damsel in self imposed distress. The woman with a troubled past who feels like his man is the only chance for good in her life after he saves her. In an attempt to win over the heart of the one only good thing she seems to have going in her life she attempts to sew his shirt but cant seem to get the thread in the needle. This works as an incredibly effective metaphor for frustration trying to impress him as well as her lack of experience being domestic but trying to hard to be "the good wife" for him. George Bancroft is great as the ultra mans man bill roberts. He invincibly moves though the world confident he can handle any challenge with ease. Betty Compson is the antithesis of Bill as the small dainty emotional Sadie. This movie is just over and hour and well not a must see but still every enjoyable.
October 20, 2013
One of the crowning achievements of the silent era, a tough and tender love story.
May 10, 2013
finding love in the gutter. A poetic tale of the docks' "miserables" and how emotion can spring in the most unusual places at most unusual times.
February 8, 2013
A lively, great looking movie with perfect performances, some really interesting shots (anchor at the beginning, reflection on water).
Harlequin68
Super Reviewer
August 4, 2011
In "The Docks of New York," Bill Roberts(George Bancroft) is a stoker on board of a steamboat that is about to dock for a night in New York. As such, he has plans but is warned not to be late for the boat's departure in the morning. Those same plans hit a snag when Bill dives into the harbor to rescue Mae(Betty Compson) who just tried to kill herself. As she recovers her wits, they get to know each other. Just after he shows off his tattoos, she pops the question.

"The Docks of New York" is an engrossing and lively film about people in the lowest rungs of life who are not so much given a reprieve, but just the barest glimmer of hope. At the start, Mae has given up on any possibilties for her future while Bill takes advantage of whatever fun he can find for himself, when he is not at his grueling job, to enjoy himself and forget everything else. All of which is set in a close knit community of people who look out for each other when they have nothing else.
½ March 12, 2011
A fantastic portrait of blue collar worker life in the twenties. A sweet tale of societal reality versus societal fantasy. In this silent film from 1928, a blue collar worker from a steam ship on a one day leave falls for a suicidal damsel who he saves from drowning. The conflict and hypocrisy of what happens still leave an impact more than 80 years later. With cinematography by Harold Rosson (The Wizard of Oz) and set design by Hans Dreier (Sunset Boulevard), this movie definitely stands the test of time.
September 23, 2010
In the Part of New York We Pretend Doesn't Exist

I have just finished reading an excellent book about the Great Heat Wave of 1896, an event I hadn't realized existed before. It's one of those books of very specialized information which turns out to be interesting beyond its own field. It entwines the stories of the city, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Jennings Bryan during a wave of excruciating heat which killed hundreds. (Why, yes, the author was a [i]Daily Show[/i] guest!) At any rate, a large part of the book talks about the slums, the tenements. Some people of higher means died, but most of the people were poor, many immigrants or the children of immigrants. Many of them were men who just couldn't take the time off their jobs, mostly involving physical labour, to escape the heat. This was even true of a handful of policemen. The heatwave vanished from public consciousness pretty quickly, but the characters in this story would have been among those who suffered most from it.

Bill Roberts (George Bancroft) is a stoker--he feeds the boiler on a ship. For reasons I don't remember, his much-anticipated leave is cut down to one night. Even beyond that, his captain tells his men that they'd better not come back drunk. So naturally, Bill goes right to a seedy waterfront bar. On his way there, he sees Mae (Betty Compson) jump into the river. He fishes her out and lectures her about the follies of suicide. He steals fine clothing from a pawnshop for her. He takes her along with him to the seedy bar. They drink together. They wallow in self-pity. Each scoffs at the idea that anyone would be willing to marry them. So naturally, Bill suggests that they get married. They call Hymn Book Harry (Gustav von Seyffertitz), a local dockside do-gooder, who agrees to marry them on the proviso that they get a license in the morning. Only most of the people they know are pretty convinced Bill won't be sticking around.

I've seen a couple of films by Joseph von Sternberg, and he seems a pretty talented director. I know he got at least one good performance, and probably more, out of Marlene Dietrich. (I haven't actually seen [i]Morocco[/i] yet, among others.) It strikes me that he was one of those directors who got where film could go before it really went there. These are not the kind of overblown, facially exaggerated performances you get in many films of the era. Though, of course, this was released the year after [i]The Jazz Singer[/i], and the rise of sound brought about a lot of changes in a few short years. However, it's argued that the true artform of the silent film was just coming into its own when sound films took over. Given what I've seen of the man's work, I think von Sternberg was one of those visionaries who realized that acting for the stage and acting for the screen were not the same thing, giving rise to a new naturalism.

Of course, it's also essential that these two be pathetic figures. Mae really doesn't have anything left to live for, if you think about it. It's never said, but I'm quite sure she's a prostitute, and she is awfully fast to marry Bill and go home with him. To be fair, there are times when you just need someone, anyone, and that's the person you get. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. There's no knowing how things will go for Bill and Mae, but the film does strongly imply that there's not much further down Mae can go. She's probably a drunk. He definitely is. He's the sort of person who would throw a punch at his boss--and rob a pawnshop to get clothes for a woman he'd just pulled out of the river. She's the kind of person who'd throw herself into the river. One of her friends at one point wishes Mae better luck than she herself had--but she also says she doesn't think Mae will get it. It's a message picture, really, and the possibly doomed romance is just one more degradation.

What I find curious is that Hymn Book Harry seems so disapproving of the marriage. On the other hand, there's the fact that only Bill and Mae seem to be taking the whole thing even approaching seriously. Sure, they've just met, but they've also found their soulmates, if you acknowledge that their souls are as bleak and empty as characters in a [i]Funky Winkerbean[/i] strip. And getting married is better than living in sin. I suppose it's his certainty that the marriage won't last, a not unreasonable assumption on his part. It's also the fact that, yes, the rest of the people in the bar are treating it as a riotous joke. And, after all, it's a wedding in a bar. Lou (Olga Baclanova, who would go on to be in [i]Freaks[/i]), the one who wishes Mae what luck is possible, ends up taking it seriously once she realizes that Mae is. I think Harry does, too, but he still isn't happy about doing so. I'm not sure von Sternberg is, either.
½ July 9, 2010
A moody, atmospheric film that does a great job of delivering an interesting look at a dock romance. I especially loved the bar a good portion of the film took place it, full of seedy people doing seedy things. There were several really interesting shots, one was a pull back shot that featured a number of patrons beating the crap out of each other, and another was a beautiful shot as Bill walks up to the room where Mae is drying off, you see wisps of light coming out of a wall in another room. The film has such a great look with its use of shadows, which helped fill out the mood of the "hole in the wall" that this place was. I felt like the pacing was a bit slower toward the end, but overall a great little story.
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