Waterfront is a 1950 British black and white drama film directed by Michael Anderson and starring Robert Newton, Kathleen Harrison and Avis Scott. The screenplay concerns a sailor who abandons his family in the Liverpool slums. He returns years later causing family frictions. Adapted from the 1934 novel by Liverpool-born writer John Brophy, it was released in the U.S. as Waterfront Women.
Although often forgotten, it features a young (aged 25) Richard Burton in his third film appearance,
When ship’s fireman Peter McCabe walks out on his long-suffering wife he leaves her impoverished, with two young daughters and a son born soon after his departure. They live near the waterfront in Liverpool.
Young George Alexander McCabe, named after the actor George Alexander is very bright and at 14 wins a scholarship. The mother, eldest daughter, and George, go to the Empire Theatre to celebrate. Here George in his enthusiasm strikes the man in front (Ben) on the back of the head whilst waving his lollipop. This strikes a friendship between the man (Richard Burton) and his sister.
Unexpectedly McCabe returns, sacked from his position on the SS Benediction. He trails trouble in his wake. The eldest daughter, now a woman, is none too pleased at her father’s reappearance.
On his initial visit he stays only moments. After a dalliance with a blonde acquaintance he learns of the existence of his son. He heads to the pub and drinks a lot of whisky. A ship-mate appears and they brawl outside. During the brawl he cuts his throat with a razor. McCabe is arrested. In a twist of fate Ben comes upon the scene and applies for the dead man’s post as First Engineer on the Benediction, but it sails at midnight. He sends a note to the sister to tell her his plan. When the police arrive to tell Mrs McCabe of her husband’s arrest the daughter realises the coincidence.
Mrs McCabe goes to the police station to see her husband but he has been moved to Walton Jail. She goes there with George and visits him in his cell (it is unclear why they do not use the visitor room). George wears his new school uniform and is asked to recite a Latin poem.