The Wild One
The Wild One (1953) is an American outlaw biker movie. It was directed by László Benedek. It was produced by Stanley Kramer. It stars Marlon Brando as a motorcycle gang leader. Brando was leery about taking on the role of a lowlife bully after playing Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire. He accepted though because he liked the director and the movie's social commentary. Critics liked the movie. It was banned in the United Kingdom for 14 years. Brando's character was parodied by Harvey Lembeck in the "beach party" movies of the 1960s.
The movie was based on the short story "The Cyclists' Raid" by Frank Rooney. Rooney was inspired to write the story after seeing photos in a Life magazine. These photos showed the damage done by 4,000 bikers to a small town in California after a weekend spree of violence in 1947. The story was published in Harper's Magazine in 1951. Kramer bought the sceen rights.
Brando's sideburns inspired a fad. James Dean and Elvis Presley wore them. Presley used Johnny's image as a model for his role in Jailhouse Rock. James Dean bought a Triumph TR5 Trophy motorcycle like Brando's Triumph Thunderbird 6T motorcycle. For 2010, Triumph motorcycles introduced a range of clothing and promotional items nspired by Brando's image from The Wild One.
- Marlon Brando as Johnny, leader of the Rebels
- Mary Murphy as Kathie Bleeker, a waitress
- Robert Keith as Police Chief Harry Bleeker, Kathie's father
- Lee Marvin as Chino, leader of The Beetles
- Jay C. Flippen as Sheriff Stew Singer
- Peggy Maley as Mildred, a beautician
- Ray Teal as Frank Bleeker, Kathie's uncle
- Will Wright as Art Kleiner, a townsman
- Yvonne Doughty as Britches, Beetles member
Johnny leads his biker gang into a small town. They are rowdy. They loiter at the cafe drinking beers. Kathie works there. Johnny takes a liking to her. He asks her out. She declines. Johnny learns that she is a policeman's daughter. He changes his mind about associating with her. Another biker gang rides into town. Their leader is Chino. He does not like Johnny. The two fight. Johnny wins. The bikers vandalize the town and harass the townspeople. They tease Kathie. Johnny rescues her. The two ride into a park. Kathie is attracted to Johnny. He mauls her. She cries and runs off. Johnny rides after her.
The townspeople have had enough of the bikers. Some think Johnny assaulted Kathie. Vigilantes catch Johnny. They beat him, but he gets away on his motorcycle. The townspeople chase him. A tire iron is thrown. It hits Johnny and he falls. His motorcycle takes off without a rider. It kills a bystander. Sheriff Singer arrives with his deputies. Order is restored. Johnny is arrested for killng the bystander. Two witnesses say that Johnny was not responsible for the death. The bikers are ordered to leave town. Johnny goes back to the cafe to say goodbye to Kathie. He leaves town.
- Columbia Pictures. 1998. "The Wild One unleashes the lean, mean Brando as a rebel without a peer!" (Liner notes). The Wild One DVD06239.
- Dr. Martin H. Levinson (2011), Brooklyn Boomer: Growing Up in the Fifties, iUniverse, ISBN 1-4620-1712-6, p.81.
- Burton I. Kaufman & Diane Kaufman (2009), The A to Z of the Eisenhower Era, Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-7150-5, p.38.