The Wild One
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FAQ Contents

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

After being chased out of Carbonville. California, cop-hating Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando) leads his motorcycle gang, the Black Rebels, to the nearby town of Wrightsville for gas and beers. When one of the gang members (Crazy) is injured in a run-in with a local's car, the gang is forced to remain in town while he recovers. The gang takes to frequenting Bleekers, the local cafe-bar, which doesn't bother owner Frank Bleeker (Ray Teal) because he welcomes their money. Johnny is attracted by waitress Kathie Bleeker (Mary Murphy), daughter of Frank's brother Harry (Robert Keith), who also happens to be the town's sheriff. Although several of the townfolk dislike the 'hoodlums' in their town, Harry doesn't do anything to stop them until a rival motorcycle group, Chino (Lee Marvin) and the Beetles, ride into town, and real trouble breaks out.

The Wild One is based on a short story The Cyclists' Raid by Frank Rooney. It was first published in the January 1951 issue of Harper's Magazine and later re-published as part of The Best American Short Stories (1952). The story was inspired by a Fourth of July biker street party in Hollister, California that was written up in Life magazine and dubbed "the Hollister riot". The story was adapted for the movie by American screenwriters John Paxton and Ben Maddow.

After Kathie and her father have cleared Johnny from being charged with the murder of Old Jimmy (William Vedder), the deputy sheriff (Jay C. Flippen) orders the motorcycle gang out of town, warning Johnny that he will have to return for the inquest, but if any one of the others ever come back, they won't ever see the light of day again. In the final scene, Johnny returns to Bleekers Cafe where Kathie and her father are having coffee. Wordlessly, Johnny sets his trophy on the bar, slides it toward Kathie, and smiles at her as if to finally say: Thanks. Kathie smiles back, and Johnny leaves.

Brando was born in 1924, and the film was made in 1953. That would make him about 29 years old.

One movie about rebellious teenagers during the 1950s that immediately jumps to mind is Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which three teens, alienated from their middle-class upbringing, get into trouble with their parents, their peers, and the police.


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