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The Wild One (1953)
An influential classic
Although it might look quite tame compared to todays standards at the time of it's release The Wild One was considered ground breaking stuff which upset it's fair share of people (it was banned in Britain for 14 years). However it helped inspire the era of rebellion which lead to such classics as the James Dean epic Rebel Without a Cause. It is also memorable for Brando giving one of his greatest performances as Johnny Strabler, leader of the rebellious biker gang the "Black Rebels". True he didn't receive an academy award nomination for his role but there's still no doubting the standard of his performance.
At the start of the film we are introduced to Johnny and his gang as they interrupt a race taking place. This leads to a confrontation with the local sheriff which results in them leaving elsewhere to cause trouble. However just as they leave one of the members of the gang steals a trophy that would be presented to the runner up of the race (the first prize trophy was too big to steal)and gives it to Johnny. This represents the respect the gang has for Johnny. Soon after the gang arrives in the small town of Wrightsville, it is here that the film divides into two stories. The first one focuses on the relationship that develops between Johnny and a local girl called Kathie. At first it appears that the two couldn't be anymore different, he's a rebellious free spirit and she's lead quite a sheltered life going by rules and discipline. But it is through Kathie that we get to know the real Johnny as it is revealed that behind all the macho bravado he is quite a lost insecure soul unable to emotionally communicate with anyone, which explains why he behaves as he does. It is a credit to Brando's performance as to how he is able to draw sympathy from the viewer for his character. As Kathie has lead a sheltered life she has always been looking in from the outside, she has a father who is the sheriff of the town but isn't respected by the other residents and is considered something of a joke.It seems he is just there to make up the numbers and shows no signs of law enforcement skills when called to deal with a problem. Kathie sees him as a fraud, just as she sees Johnny. The second story focuses on the conflict that develops between the residents of the town and Johnny and his gang,during which it is the residents of the town who come off as the bad guys and not the black rebels.
As i previously mentioned while this film might look quite tame compared to todays standards it is still worth a look if you get a chance. If not to see what all the fuss was about at the time, then just for Brando's performance which really is in a league of it's own.