Tuesday, 24 April 2007

The Wild One

"What are you rebelling against?"

"What've you got?"

Two years before Jimmy Dean was a rebel without a cause, Marlon Brando was laying down the rebel template in 'The Wild One', a movie I have a massive soft spot for; even though it is quite rough round the ages and has dated quite badly it is still a cracking period piece.

Brando's performance is like watching a proto-Elvis but then you have to remember this film predates rock 'n' roll and is full of jazzed-up bikers rather than hepped-up rockers and then it clicks that Elvis stole his early persona from Brando's character.

It's clear that Brando took his characterisation from the African American community, his higher tone and phrasing while his swagger is mix of pimp hoodlum and man mountain, it's nice to see a leading man quite clearly a few pounds overweight; oh for the 1950s again.

Lee Marvin nearly steals the show playing opposite Marlon Brando, with a lighter performance that is driven by a drunken, mercury persona that is a nice underscore to the brooding and lead-like work of Brando.

Whether you like motorcycles or not, this is an essential and slight movie for a slice of pre-rock 'n' roll culture and an actor laying down a performance that inspired not only fellow actors but also a whole popular culture movement.


  1. I agree with everything you say about Brando. Just wish I'd never taken it upon myself to `gen up' on the actor (by reading numerous biographies on the guy a few years back) to discover that he had a penchant for not bathing, not wiping after going to the loo and going commando.

    But all that aside, he is/was still a demi-god. Perhaps you could be the next tramp-smelling genius in the world of acting ... ?

  2. I've read about this movie before... so thanks for the Netflix recommendation.

    By the way, African Americans stole all of that culture from the Native Americans--but you don't hear about that today, do you?

  3. I could go into to a long a boring bit on how the motorcycle counter-culture grew out of disaffected WWII veterans who weren't sharing in the pax-Americana prosperity in the post-war years, but that would get a bit off point...

    The movie was based in part on a series of magazine articles that glorified a small brawl in Hollister, Ca on July 4th 1947. Much of the stories were hype and the accompanying photos were staged. These articles and the movie are responsible for the popularization of the outlaw biker counter culture that we love so well in the USA.

    Did you know that this film was banned in the UK?

  4. Oh yeah man, been reading up on it, think it was passed eventually in 68.

  5. I've never seen this movie, but I did have a very old Mad Magazine paperback book that had a satire from the usual gang of idiots. So I know a bit about the movie but only have a very warped view.

    It starts with a scene of a road, you hear the sound of motorcycles getting closer and louder. Seems to be half an hour (several panels) before anything else happens, then the titles:

    Marlon Branflakes


    The Wild One

    --- then a truck comes by the other direction and rips half the scene away, then a new title comes up:

    The Wild 1/2

    ---- and it continues in that vein. It was quite awhile since I have seen that book "Son of Mad".

  6. Ah, Brando before Superman. Those were the days.


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