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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Wild One (1953)

A motorcycle gang rides into a small California town and it isn't long before the bikers and the citizens clash. But the charismatic biker leader (Marlon Brando) finds himself drawn to the small town girl (Mary Murphy) working in the local diner. Based on THE CYCLISTS' RAID, a short story by Frank Rooney which was in turn based on an actual incident. In 1947, thousands of bikers descended into a small California town called Hollister and riots and destruction ensued. Directed by Laslo Benedek but produced by Stanley Kramer, so we get the cautionary moralizing that's typical of his product. Like most topical films, THE WILD ONE hasn't aged well and its "juvenile delinquents" come across as almost a satire (Gene Kelly did parody the film in LES GIRLS). But the film does have its moments, there's the iconic line: "What are you rebelling against?" "What have you got?". But there's a reason the film is highly watchable even today and that's Marlon Brando. It's as much an iconic performance of misunderstood youth as James Dean in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. Brando's tough bravado masking the boy looking for affection underneath. Brando turned film acting on its ear and it's all on display here. I seriously doubt if we would be talking about the film today if Robert Wagner or Jeffrey Hunter played the lead. With Lee Marvin, Robert Keith, Jay C. Flippen, Peggy Maley, Timothy Carey, Ray Teal and Yvonne Doughty.

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