Based on a true story, "Harley and the Davidsons" charts the birth of this iconic bike during a time of great social and technological change beginning at the turn of the 20th century. ...
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Bill Harley and brothers Walter and Arthur Davidson found a motorcycle company in a shed behind the Davidson's home. But competition is fierce, and Walter has to put their fledgling business on the ...
Based on a true story, "Harley and the Davidsons" charts the birth of this iconic bike during a time of great social and technological change beginning at the turn of the 20th century. Walter, Arthur and Bill risked their entire fortune and livelihood to launch the budding enterprise. Each of these men faced very different challenges, but it was the motorcycle that united their dreams and ambitions. Walter, Arthur, and Bill cemented Harley-Davidson's reputation as a builder of bikes that go anywhere, can ride hard and ignore all the rules. It's a legacy that has endured over 100 years - and at the heart of the brand and its loyal riders.Written by
Conflict is the essence of drama, and "Harley and the Davidsons" is "balls to the wall" conflict. Hardly one issue is (perhaps) settled before another rears its head. Every combination of "conflictors" is explored: brother/brother; father/children; mother/children; capitalists/little guys; creeps/decent folk, etc, etc, etc. It's an absolute model of a conflict-driven story that will keep the script reader turning the pages, until he or she collapses, screaming "We've got to green-light this one!".
To the extent I can unscramble things (I'm not an expert on the history of motorcycles), it seems that great liberties have been taken with the lives of Messrs. Harley and Davidson (such as introducing fictional characters and ignoring real ones (eg, Evinrude)). It's suggestive that there are separate credits for the story and the screenwriter.
The production values are impressive, and the film is first-rate eye candy, on multiple levels. The shot of Walter Davidson riding the prototype * across the green, green hills of... Romania?... is beautiful. The period costumes must have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. And best of all is the recreation of early motorcycles. One can imagine -- and applaud -- the work that went into it. (Who doesn't like motorcycles?)
But the whole seems less than the sum of its parts. It just doesn't ring true. It comes off more as an example of how to write an exciting script that will get produced, than any veracious insight into what H and the Ds went through.
I'm always critical of modern films projecting modern attitudes on historical events, so I was especially annoyed when Walter said he wanted their motorcycle to project an outlaw spirit. He might very well have said that, but bikers were not seen as "outlaws" until after WWII.
After watching the appalling episode 3, I've lowered my rating from seven stars to three stars.
The episode's principal elements are Indian's lawsuit against H-D for patent infringement, and Walter's son's rebellion. Though H-D had infringed patents, they were actually Robert Keating's. (I've been unable to confirm the film's claim that Harley had neglected to patent several inventions, and another company had patented them, which Indian used to "destroy" H-D.)
Walter Jr's rebellion might have occurred, but it's recounted as if the writer is running down a checklist of how one dramatizes such things. Walter Jr joins a group of poverty-stricken bike lovers, one of whom is a young woman wearing designer rags, the other a black man. The latter appears to be in the story for political correctness, but it seems he was a real person who went on to own an H-D dealership. Of course, everything is so overblown that one doesn't know what to believe.
The capper is Mrs Harley's bone cancer. Without telling anyone why, Harley takes increasing time off from work to go on picnics with her. Of course, it all ends semi-happily when the doctor discovers she actually has a treatable non-fatal disease.
I was expecting a documentary on the history of Harley-Davidson. What I got was a hyperbolic drama with little regard for the facts. The best thing about this series is its strongly negative view of capitalists and businessmen.
* It was actually the second prototype, as the first had to be pedaled to get uphill.
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