The Wild One

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(1953) ★★★

TCM: Monday 6 July, 7.30pm

An iconic role for Marlon Brando, on the cusp of his career defining performance in On the Waterfront. He’s Johnny Strabler, the peak-capped, leather-jacketed leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club – a bunch of boozy hooligans on the rampage in a clapboard Californian town. The diner bar waitress who sees straight though Brando’s sullen facade is Mary Murphy, who happens to be the daughter of ineffectual police chief Robert Keith. Marketed as a shocking torn-from-the-headlines story, it’s actually based on a 1947 incident in the small rural California town of Hollister. Produced by Stanley Kramer (who also produced Brando’s devastating 1950 screen debut, The Men), the influential Wild One prefigured Elvis Presley’s sneering pout and both Blackboard Jungle and Rebel Without a Cause (with ill-fated Brando imitator James Dean). The camera loves Brando and he’s magnetic. Lee Marvin, too, the year before Bad Day at Black Rock, is typically charismatic as Brando’s drunken rival, Chino: “Hiya, sweetheart! I love ya, Johnny! Been looking for you in every ditch this side of Fresno, hoping you were dead.” Banned by the British censors until 1968, this once notorious movie (reclassified PG for video release in 1988) is now just as likely to raise smiles as hackles. But it remains both a fascinating anti-social document and an intriguing companion piece to Brando’s 60s smalltown drama, The Chase.

Certificate: PG
Duration: 79min

Other Showings Time & Date
TCM Tuesday, 7 July at 9:30AM
TCM Wednesday, 15 July at 7:30PM
TCM Friday, 31 July at 7:30PM