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On the Bowery1956

  • 4.3
ON THE BOWERY chronicles three days in the drinking life of Ray Salyer, a part-time railroad worker adrift on New York's skid row, the Bowery. When the film first opened it 1956, it exploded on the screen, burning away years of Hollywood artifice, jump-starting the post-war American independent scene and earning an Academy Award®-nomination. ON THE BOWERY is simultaneously an incredible document of a bygone era and a vivid and devastating portrait of addiction that resonates today just as it did when it was made. For songwriter Woody Guthrie, his guitar was a machine that "kills fascists." For Lionel Rogosin, the weapon of choice was a movie camera and his first battle was waged on the streets of New York City. Exploring the underworld of the city's skid row, Rogosin developed his signature style. After months drinking with men he met on the Bowery, Rogosin worked with them to write a screenplay that reflected their lives and then cast his drinking buddies as themselves.

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3 members like this review

This film is a scripted, slice-of-life narrative about men living from one drink to the next on Skid Row in the Bowery. It dramatizes alcoholism among disaffected post-WWII men repeatedly hitting rock bottom, only to do it again the next time they have money in their pockets. It's also about what passes for camaraderie in that world--men who, sometimes within a single day, alternatively take advantage of, and look out for, their companions.

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top reviewer

Member Reviews (15)

102752.small
top reviewer

This film is a scripted, slice-of-life narrative about men living from one drink to the next on Skid Row in the Bowery. It dramatizes alcoholism among disaffected post-WWII men repeatedly hitting rock bottom, only to do it again the next time they have money in their pockets. It's also about what passes for camaraderie in that world--men who, sometimes within a single day, alternatively take advantage of, and look out for, their companions.

3 members like this review
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top reviewer

It really is like the first scripted reality show. Like everyone says, the faces will blow your mind. The dialogue sounds like Dragnet or some play on how folks spoke back then, but I gotta figure that's actually how it was.

2 members like this review
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top reviewer

Its a semi-staged documentary, sorta like today's reality shows, but using a few down-and-out actors and mostly genuine, authentic "Bowery bums". Great photography. Great bums.I can't help but wonder who was the intended audience? Beatniks?

2 members like this review
2efae933f63ea5a471b86a486602ec0b?default=https%3a%2f%2fd3uc4wuqnt61m1.cloudfront.net%2fassets%2favatars%2fmale%2favatar m 0082
top reviewer

A good drama with interesting characters. It seems like the alcohol back then was a little more potent than it is today (I've never seen so many guys passed out at a bar), but the faces of the extras in this film make it worth watching. Some of the wrinkles and eyes could tell a thousand stories, but unfortunately, nobody seemed to listen. A great example of a film that enlightened the public to the dirty underbelly of society.

1 member likes this review

Watching this merely for the camera angles would be enough. Great style and the collaboration with the men was so honest, you feel like you're in the bar along with them watching. Nothing is glamorized in this one.

1 member likes this review

bleakest thing i've ever seen.

1 member likes this review
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filmmaker

Like everyone has already said, THE FACES!

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top reviewer

Fascinating as a quasi-documentary of time, place and character, but Ray Salyer makes this a truly haunting and moving drama of spiraling addiction. With his youth, Dana Andrews good looks and polite manners, he seems to have little in common with the grizzled drooling drunks spouting paranoid rants or passed-out in the gutters. He arrives as a visitor, carrying a suitcase, but is on the threshold of perhaps becoming a resident. Powerful film!

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top reviewer

Just an outstanding film. An amazing look at New York in the 50s as well. Incredibly groundbreaking and compelling.

Bleak indeed. Powerful. Fascinating look at the Bowery circa late 1950s. The faces! Neo-realism at its finest...although not sure finest is a word that should be used here.

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top reviewer

our insensitivity to these poor souls is astounding alcholism is a disease

Great movie! Very bleak, but a great snapshot of the past. It's scripted, but still real in many ways. Great movie to watch while you're drinking. Pass the Sterno! Or is this actually a sci-fi movie of The United States in 2025? Either way this is a great watch! Check it out.

Wow! Candy for a street photographer's eyes.

A classic. Must watch.

really well made