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The Wild One (1953) Poster

(1953)

Trivia

This film was banned in the U.K. until 1968.
The Triumph motorcycle that Marlon Brando rides in the movie was his personal bike.
Director Stanley Kramer hired real biker gangs to play themselves. When Kramer asked one of them what they were rebelling against, one cyclist cracked, "Well, what ya got?" That was incorporated into the script and became one of the film's most quoted lines.
Widely released as a double bill with The Big Heat (1953) in the U.S.
Lee Marvin was actually drunk in several of his scenes, and his on-screen rivalry with Marlon Brando continued off-camera as well.
A photo of Marlon Brando as Johnny is featured on the cover of The Beatles' album, "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."
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 movie. Although spirited, the cyclists did not run amok or become violent. In fact, they were invited back to Hollister over the July 4, 1997 weekend for a 50th-anniversary celebration of the original incident.
Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin almost starred together again 19 years later in John Boorman's Deliverance (1972). They were cast in the film until Marvin told director Boorman that he thought he and Brando were too old for their roles. Boorman agreed and cast Jon Voight and Burt Reynolds instead.
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 rock band, the scene from the movie where Marvin introduces The Beetles is used at the beginning of The Beatles' "Anthology."
Lee Marvin was cast as a substitute for Keenan Wynn, whom MGM had refused to release after he had already spent weeks in pre-production on the film.
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In his 1994 autobiography "Songs My Mother Taught Me" Marlon Brando wrote he did not think the film had aged well.
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San Francisco Hell's Angels chapter president Frank Sadilek bought the striped shirt that Lee Marvin wore in the movie, and wore it when meeting police officials.
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Pigeon, a member of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club led by Johnny Strabler, is played by an uncredited Alvy Moore. Moore would achieve greater recognition some 12 years later playing absent-minded county agricultural agent Hank Kimball on Green Acres (1965).
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Lee Marvin based his character, Chino, on real biker Willie Forkner ("Wino Willy"). Forkner rode with the Booze Fighters Motorcycle Club, and is considered a legend among bikers.
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The leather jacket worn by Marlon Brando is a Schott NYC Perfecto 618, personalized by Brando by the addition of the epaulet stars. This style of jacket is still available.
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Marlon Brando's motorcycle is a 650cc Triumph Thunderbird. From stills, its registration number looks like 63632. Lee Marvin also owned a Triumph 200cc Tiger Cub, upon which he competed in desert races. Gil Stratton was featured in a print advertisement for Triumph motorcycles in 1963. He later became a well-known TV sports reporter in Los Angeles for decades.
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The film was rejected for a UK cinema certificate in 1954 and 1955 by the BBFC and was finally granted an X rating in November 1967 after a 13 year ban.
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Marlon Brando and most of the Black Rebels ride Triumphs and other British motorcycles, while Lee Marvin and his boys ride Harley-Davidsons.
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A popular still from the film shows an off-set Marlon Brando astride a Matchless twin-cylinder motorcycle, its "M" logo gas tank badge being secured upside-down to resemble a "W". This was stunt rider Wally Albright's motorcycle.
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Marlon Brando was not enthusiastic about making the film. He reportedly took the role only out of respect for Stanley Kramer, the producer of Brando's film debut, The Men (1950).
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To prepare for his role, Marlon Brando renewed his love for motorcycles, practicing his cycling technique and selecting his own wardrobe, which he wore to and from the studio. Brando also spent time with the real-life biker gangs to absorb their mannerisms and speech.
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Harry Cohn imposed a strict shooting schedule on this film with little time for changes or revisions, much as he had done with a previous Columbia picture, From Here to Eternity (1953).
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This was the first film in which the manufacturer's logo on motorcycles was not blanked out. Johnson Motors, which imported Triumphs into the US, protested at its product being linked with Marlon Brando and his Black Rebels, but the association served them well.
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Most of the actors, including Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, were considered too old for their characters.
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In an episode of "Happy Days", Joanie says to Fonzie: "I saw The Wild One" to which Fonzie replies: "Crummy flick....if I was Lee Marvin, I'd've cracked Brando's skull with that trophy"
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The rock band Black Rebel Motorcycle Club take their name from one of the biker gangs in this film.
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Lee Marvin could not ride a motorcycle at the time of filming but, determined not to be bettered by Marlon Brando, he quickly learned, later becoming a keen competitor on his Triumph 200cc Tiger Cub in desert races.
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As has been pointed out, the BBFC refused this film a certificate in 1954. At the time the highest rating for a film was an "X" certificate, which in those days meant 16 or over. However, it is not true to say that the film was banned. The authority over film exhibition lies with the local authority. Most accept the BBFC rulings but any local authority can view a film and issue its own rating. In the case of this film, it was shown in the UK in 1954 at the Rex Cinema in Cambridge, managed at the time by Leslie Halliwell of Halliwell's Film Guide fame. He 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 as recounted in Halliwell's autobiography "Seats in All Parts" (apparently it also got a local "X" in Maesteg, South Wales).
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The producers wanted to film on location, but Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn nixed this idea and ordered them to shoot it on Columbia's ranch in Burbank. He also wanted the film made in black-and-white.
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The working titles of this film were The Cyclists' Raid and Hot Blood.
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Due to the subject matter, Stanley Kramer had numerous problems with the studio over dialogue and specific scenes that were deemed unacceptable by the Breen office (Hollywood's self-imposed censorship board).
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Harry Cohn hated the completed film but so did Marlon Brando for different reasons. The latter said, "We started out to do something worthwhile, to explain the psychology of the hipster. But somewhere along the way we went off the track. The result was that instead of finding why young people tend to bunch into groups that seek expression, all that we did was show the violence."
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Marlon Brando selected his own wardrobe of boots, jeans, leather jacket and cap which he wore to and from the studio.
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According to the book, Triumph Motorcycle In America, Triumph motorcycle's then-importers, Johnson Motors, objected to the prominent use of Triumph motorcycles in the film. However, later, Gil Stratton, who played "Mouse" in the film, advertised Triumph motorcycles in the 1960s when he was a famous TV sports announcer. As of 2014, the manufacturers were publicly identifying Marlon Brando as a celebrity who had helped to "cement the Triumph legend".
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James Dean bought a Triumph TR5 Trophy motorcycle to mimic Marlon Brando's own Triumph Thunderbird 6T motorcycle that he used in the film.
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Marlon Brando's haircut helped to inspire a craze for sideburns, followed by James Dean and Elvis Presley, among others. Presley also used Johnny's image as a model for his role in Jailhouse Rock (1957).
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Stanley Kramer recalled: "I gathered together a band of motorcyclists...Brando and I talked to them, and then the writer Ben Maddow was brought in. But he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee so John Paxton took over the script. These guys were a new breed, and there weren't many of them around...A lot of the dialogue is taken from our actual conversations with them. All the talk about "We gotta go, that's all...just gotta move on' was something we heard over and over again. And one of the most famous lines in the film came from my conversation with them too. I asked one of the kids, 'What are you rebelling against?' and he answered, 'What have you got?'"
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Marlon Brando allegedly did not see eye to eye with the Hungarian director Laslo Benedek.
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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".
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Marlon Brando claimed that the few positive aspects of making the film was that it released some of his inner violence and frustration at his father. "Before The Wild One (1953), I thought about killing my father. After The Wild One (1953), I decided that I shouldn't actually kill him, but pull out his corneas".
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