Friday, 10 July 2015

Film Friday: The Wild One (1953)

Today on Film Friday is 1953's The Wild One.

My, how I love this film. Andy got it for me as he assured me I would LOVE Lee Marvin's role as Chino, leader of biker gang The Beetles. He couldn't have been more right. 
The character Chino is one of my favourite film characters and I love the line spoken by him in the film: "I love you Johnny. I've been looking for you in every ditch from Fresno to here hoping you was dead."

Two rival motorcycle gangs terrorize a small town after one of their leaders is thrown in jail.

* * * 

The British Board of Film Classification refused The Wild One a UK cinema certificate in 1954.
At this time, the highest rating for a film in the UK was an X which meant you had to be sixteen years or over. Authority over showing films actually lay with the local authority with most
accepting the rulings of the BBFC but  that didn't mean they couldn't view a film
and issue their own rating. 
It is widely believed that The Wild One was banned in the UK and that it finally received an X rating in November 1967 after a 13 year 'ban' but in Cambridge at the Rex Cinema in 1954 which was managed at the time by Leslie Halliwell of Halliwell's Film Guide fame, Halliwell arranged for the local watch committee to view the film and they gave it a local "X" certificate. It played for two weeks to indifferent business. It also got a local "X" in Maesteg, South Wales. 

The Wild One was based on a 1951 short story in Harper's Magazine entitled The Cyclists' Raid, which in turn was based upon a real-life incident in Hollister, California in 1947. The actual incident, however, bore little resemblance to the events depicted in the film. Although spirited, the bikers did not run amok nor did they become violent. In fact, they were invited back to Hollister over the July 4, 1997 weekend for a fiftieth anniversary celebration of the original incident.  

The Triumph motorcycle that Marlon Brando rides in the film was his personal bike.

The name of Lee Marvin's motorcycle gang is "The Beetles." Although it has never formally been acknowledged as an inspiration for the name of the 1960s band, the scene from the film where Marvin introduces The Beetles is used at the beginning of The Beatles Anthology. 
The band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club take their name from Johnny's gang. 

Lee Marvin as Chino

 This was the first film in which the manufacturer's logo on motorcycles was not blanked out. Johnson Motors, who imported Triumphs into the USA, protested at their product being linked with Brando and his Black Rebels, but the association served them well.

Lee Marvin could not ride a motorcycle at the time of filming, but determined not to be bettered by the star (Brando) he quickly learned, later becoming a keen competitor on his Triumph 200cc Tiger Cub in desert races.

Did you know that San Francisco Hell's Angels chapter president Frank Sadilek bought the striped shirt that Lee Marvin wore in the film, and wore it when meeting police officials. 

Have you ever seen The Wild One? What did you think?
Can you imagine the terror of such an event happening?

Due to my upbringing, a group of bikers wouldn't bother me as much as a group of
regular club goers would.
Where I used to live, Portsmouth, the Guildhall was host to a lot of gigs and I would walk through there with ease (as easy as I could considering I don't like crowds) on the night of a gig were the crowds waiting to go in of an alternative nature, but just along the way was a street housing the sort of clubs which attracted the sort of people who would give me endless grief and you couldn't pay me to walk along there.


  1. Yeah, I've always felt safer in biker places than regular clubs too - they seem to have a self-policing 'No dickheads' policy. My first gig was a Motorhead one at age 15, and everyone was so nice!

    I've never seen the Wild One, but your review makes me want to!

    1. My first gig was The Black Crowes at the aforementioned Guildhall :)

      The Wild One has been shown a few times recently on TCM, I think it's on this coming week too.

  2. Of the handful of biker culture movies I've seen over the years, this is by far my favourite. It's such a true shame that we lost James Dean at the tender age of 24. I have no doubt that he would have kept making waves in Hollywood and mainstream culture for a long time to come, had he lived longer.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. I published this before I saw your other post, so I left them both up so it all makes sense :)

      I have heard people say that if James Dean had lived, he would have been in roles similar to Paul Newman, as they were often both put forward for similar roles. I can imagine their careers would have mirrored each other in much the same way as DeNiro and Pacino do.

  3. Hi, my complete and total - very sleepy bad - please ignore (and feel free to not post) my previous comment while I go smack myself upside the head. Brando stared in this, as you certainly mentioned, not James Dean. Why I thought that for even one red second is beyond me.


    ♥ Jessica

  4. wow, Brando was sure hot when he was young:)


Thank you for commenting!