That “Streetcar” man has a new desire!
Tuesday January 25th,
Film starts at 8pm
Otto’s Shrunken Head
538 E. 14th street (A & B)
The Wild One (1953)
The film that made James Dean go out and buy a Triumph TR Trophy, because Brando rode a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T in the film, and made it look so damn cool.
Marlon Brando! Driven Too Far By His Own Hot Blood!
So, where did Hollywood get the idea? Well, the film released in 1953 was based on a short story, The Cyclists’ Raid, by Frank Rooney, published in the January 1951 issue of Harper’s Magazine.
This story in turn was loosely inspired by real life. In the summer of 1947, Fourth of July weekend, a large group of motorcycle clubs, race enthusiasts and spectators descended on the small town of Hollister, California for an organized event, the Gypsy Tour. But, in part due to poor planning, the crowd of over 4,000 people overwhelmed the town, running its resources dry and leading to a handful of minor charges including public drunkenness and public urination. The “dramatized” report of the weekend’s events appeared in the July 21, 1947 issue of Life Magazine, then dubbed the Hollister Riot, complete with staged photographs by Barney Peterson depicted drunken, belligerent bikers running wild in the town.
Among the clubs in Hollister in ‘47 were the Top Hatters (still alive and thriving to this day) and the POBOBs (“Pissed Off Bastards Of Bloomington”). One member of the POBOBs was Otto Friedli. Friedli would go on to be one of the founding members of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club. But the most visible club at Hollister in 1947 was the Boozefighters: a group led by the charismatic “Wino Willie” Forkner. At the time, the Boozefighters consisted of chapters in three cities: Los Angeles, San Pedro, and San Francisco. – The History of The Booze Fighters
The Wild One (1953)
That’s where it begins for me…Right on this road
The film opens with the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club (B.R.M.C) led by Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando) tearing down an open road. They pull into a small town, where the local citizens are hosting a friendly day of motorcycle racing.
Cop: One more cute remark and you won’t be riding any cicles. I’ll put you away for a month.
The boys wander through town, having a good time disrupting the events, until without much wasted time, the cops ask them to leave. They quietly oblige, taking with them a stolen 2nd place race trophy.
Back on the road, Johnny now sporting the stolen 2nd place trophy tied to his 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T, leads the gang to the next town and straight to Bleekers Café & Bar.
B.R.M.C: Whatcha do around here? Anything ever happen?
Jimmy: Oh yes…Roses grow. People get married…Same as anywhere
Dragging for beers out front, things quickly go awry when one of the bikes collides with an old man’s jalopy (a 1930 Ford Model A) and the car gets knocked up a bit. The old man is pissed and Crazy busts up his ankle. After some fuss with the locals, Crazy is taken over to the local doc, to be “rewired” and the gang settle in at Bleekers Café & Bar, run by Jimmy, Frank and his niece Kathie (Mary Murphy) who quickly catches Johnny’s eye.
Kathie Bleeker: Well, what d’ya do? I mean, do you just ride around or do you go on some sort of a picnic or something?
Johnny: A picnic? Man, you are too square. I’m… I… I’ll have to straighten you out. Now, listen, you don’t go any one special place. That’s cornball style. You just go.
Having smoothed things over with the cops and the local citizens, the gang is having a gas Jiving to the bebop on the juke, when The Beatles, a rip-roaring gang of unorganized hooligans led by Chino (Lee Marvin), who used to ride with Johnny before the gang split up, roll into town.
Chino: Hiya Sweetheart. I’ve been looking in every ditch from Fresno to here hoping you was dead.
Chino and Johnny scuffle over the stolen 2nd place trophy, and things get out of hand pretty quick. Kathie’s pop, Sheriff Bleeker arrests Chino when he upsets “Frog Face”, a local citizen. Johnny who doesn’t have much love for Chino, likes cops less and so refuses to make a deal to leave town in exchange for Chino’s freedom, sending Chino off to the clink and settling in at Bleekers with the rest of the gang for the long haul.
Mildred: What’re you rebelling against, Johnny?
Johnny: Whaddya got?
Boozin’ late into the night, the two gangs get worked up and join forces to take the town hostage. Cutting off the phone lines, they kidnap “Frog Face” and throw him in jail with Chino who’s too drunk to be sprung.
Frog Face (Charlie): Anyone who wants to talk more, can stay here and have an ice cream social with Bill
Arming them selves, the citizens go after the gang and an out and out turf war begins. Kathie gets harassed by a rowdy bunch of bikers, But Johnny breaks it up and whisks her off into the country on the back of his bike.
I’ve never ridden on a motorcycle before. It’s fast. It scared me but it felt good. I forgot everything
Though they don’t really seam to like each other much, they have more in common than they know. She hates her little town and has been waiting for someone just like Johnny to walk into her café, order a coffee and take her away from her timid life and timid father. Johnny doesn’t know where he’s going or what he wants. They’re both scared. He rejects her but then follows when she runs away crying. Old man Art sees her running into the night and reports back to the angry mob of locals that Johnny’s done something to her.
My old man used to hit harder than that
Johnny returns to the gang, and tries to get them to leave, with no luck. The mob grabs him, beats him silly in a basement. Bruised and bloody, Johnny weeping, tries to head out alone, but is thrown from his bike when hit with a tire iron thrown by the angry mob. The bike skids out of control, killing Jimmy, the old man from Bleekers who’s been nothing but nice to the boys.
Kathie: It’s alright. He doesn’t know how
The gangs are arrested. But they and Johnny are freed after Kathie comes to his rescue. The head out of town and things return to normal. Back at Bleekers café, Kathie and pop chat at the counter, when Johnny walks in. Sits down and orders a cup of coffee. Finishing it without saying a word, he walks for the door, turns, places the stolen 2nd place trophy on the counter, smiles at Kathie, who smiles knowingly back as he turns and walks out the door.
(see an obsessive collection of images from the film HERE)