If you’ve never seen the classic motorcycle, bad boy animalism of “The Wild One” rebelling against society, you owe it to your self to watch this wonderful black and white film from 1953. Marlon Brando plays Johnny, a sullen young man in jeans, leather jacket, boots, and a cap just askew enough to look cool. Although it would be years before I had a motorcycle, I rode an Austrian “English racer”, with a Confederate flag tied to the handlebars. I wore what were called engineer boots, like those worn by Brando.
Mildred: Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?
Johnny: Whadda you got?
In 1962, my sophomore year at Clover Park High School, I graduated from my bike to our 4-door 1953 Chrysler. Yes, nothing says angst and teenage rebellion like a four-door six cylinder family car. The coolest person I knew at school was Ken Austin. He wore jeans, boots, and short sleeve shirts with a pack of cigarettes rolled up on his left arm. He was in lust of fellow student Sally Dennewith, but then so were most of the boys at Clover Park. Years later, Sally sang and danced and performed in Las Vegas before she passed away too soon. Peg and I are friends with her younger sister, Debbie.
I lusted, too. I settled for a Vespa instead of a motorcycle after I graduated. I dreamed of motorcycles, but is wasn’t until the mid-1970s that I bought my first motorcycle. I pretended I was Marlon Brando and riding a Harley-Davidson. Instead I bought a Suzuki 90 and drove it to save gas. I gave the kids a ride up and down the alley. I did eventually get a bigger bike, a Honda 250. One ride was enough. A pot-smoking, Harley-riding, friend was deliberately run down on the freeway. He lost the lower portion of his leg. I sold the Honda.
My son Del had a motorcycle. He moved to Phoenix to attend a special trade school where he learned to wrench Harleys (repair and tune). We were afraid every time he rode his bike.
Actually, the Harley-Davidson that I envisioned with Marlon Brando turned out to be a Triumph. Marlon rode his own bike in the movie. The film was a major triumph, too. It became a classic. “Two rival motorcycle gangs terrorize a small town after one of their leaders is thrown in jail.” Basically, “The Wild One” is a cowboy film. Two rival gangs descend on the town of Wrightsville . . . and the town just wasn’t big enough for the both of them. There’s no gun duel, but Johnny, played by Marlon Brando . . . “Driven Too Far By His Own Hot Blood!” fights with Chino, played by Lee Marvin. They had issues on and off screen.
Fellow brooding and angst ridden actor, James Dean later purchased a Triumph TR5 Trophy motorcycle to copy Marlon Brando and his Triumph.
“Reflecting on the movie in his autobiography, Marlon Brando concluded that it had not aged very well but said, “More than most parts I’ve played in the movies or onstage, I related to Johnny, and because of this, I believe I played him as more sensitive and sympathetic than the script envisioned. There’s a line in the picture where he snarls, ‘Nobody tells me what to do.’ That’s exactly how I’ve felt all my life.”.”
Watch “The Wild One” trailer – imdb.com/video/vi974371353
With the price of gas going up, now is a great time to have a motorcycle. They’re not only fun to drive, but can save you money at the gas pump. Be careful. If you are now considering purchasing a motorcycle, then you might want to download a copy of the FREE ebook “What You Always Wanted to Know About Motorcycles But Were Afraid to Ask!” – Copy and share with your friends. – openroad-offroad-tune-ups.com/
Many people thought that both Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin as well as the other gang members were too old for their characters. That never bothered me, but seeing that my dad was only a year or two older than Brando, I would agree.
For more information and details on “The Wild One” trivia visit – imdb.com/title/tt0047677/trivia
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
Your take on this great black and white movie was right on. In my younger days, I got into auto shop in high school and didn’t get into bikes until I met some friends who turned me on to dirt bikes. But this movie stayed with me as I was always dressed in tight jeans and white t-shirts/socks with black loafers with a rat tail comb sticking out the back pocket. Ruined my drivers side seat cover with that comb, lol. In the mid 60’s at Mt Tahoma. The good old days!!
Thank you for the memories Don!!
Don Doman says
Class of 64, here. Thanks for commenting Jerry.
I didn’t have a rat tail comb, but I did carry a gravity stiletto. I’m glad I could stir the old memories. Thanks for sharing your wardrobe . . . reads like old times.
Russ Wilcoxson says
I graduated in the class of 63 from Clover Park. My ride was a 57 BSA 650 Rocket motorcycle. In English class I used a friend’s new 62 BSA 650 Super Rocket as a prop for a report. The teacher had the room packed with three other classes to witness my fumbling through my speal. I’m 77 now and yes I own and ride a 2009 Street Bob Harley Davidson.
Don Doman says
Thanks for commenting. I just looked you up in my 1963 Klahowya. Did you become an aircraft mechanic? I can just see you making your report. Thanks so much for sharing. You made my morning.
Ken Karch says
“The Wild One” was an inspiration for many of us in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I bought a Suzuki 125TS and moto-crossed it in the as yet unfilled reservoir lands in Iowa, taught my kids how to ride it, rode to work on it in a snowstorm when all the roads were closed, and enjoyed the open air of the Shenandoah Parkway.
You article brought back memories of others besides Brando, including Sal Mineo and James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Thanks for sharing this.
Don Doman says
Thanks for sharing. Riding in a snow storm? OMG that had to be scary? My wife and I drove back from Seattle after a Jay Leno presentation on the Paramount in Seattle. We walked out to see six inched of snow on the ground. We drove back to Tacoma in our little Mazda. We felt alone on the freeway as we passed trucks and cars abandoned at the exits. I can only imagine what was going through your head on your Suzuki. Thanks for sharing.
p.s. I liked Rebel, also.