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HISTORY

Before the opening credits appear, the offscreen voice of filmmaker Bruce Brown discusses the many different types of motorcycle enthusiasts in the United States. Brown’s prologue is spoken over images of fat people, old people and young boys riding their bikes and motorcycles. Brown’s onscreen credit reads: “Produced/Directed/Written by Bruce Brown.” The opening credits are followed by a shot of motorcyclist Mert Lawwill wearing a business suit and surrounded by other businessmen as he crosses a busy street in downtown San Francisco. Although there is a 1971 copyright statement for Bruce Brown Films on the film, it was not registered for copyright. Solar Productions was owned by Steve McQueen. According to publicity materials contained in the film’s production file at the AMPAS Library, the title On Any Sunday refers to the fact that motorcycle events are often held on Sundays.
       According to the Filmfacts review and an interview with Brown featured as added content to the 1999 DVD release of the film, Brown, who had previously directed several films about surfing (see the below entry for Slippery When Wet ), became interested in making a film celebrating the popularity of motorcycle racing after watching the motorcycle jump scene and chase sequence featuring McQueen in the 1963 film The Great Escape (See Entry). Brown, who felt that previous motorcycle films had focused on gangs and lawlessness, approached McQueen, a motorcycle enthusiast, about making a movie that would show motorcycling as a sport enjoyed by both professionals and amateurs. McQueen then agreed to finance and appear in the picture.
       According to the Jul 1971 ... More Less

Before the opening credits appear, the offscreen voice of filmmaker Bruce Brown discusses the many different types of motorcycle enthusiasts in the United States. Brown’s prologue is spoken over images of fat people, old people and young boys riding their bikes and motorcycles. Brown’s onscreen credit reads: “Produced/Directed/Written by Bruce Brown.” The opening credits are followed by a shot of motorcyclist Mert Lawwill wearing a business suit and surrounded by other businessmen as he crosses a busy street in downtown San Francisco. Although there is a 1971 copyright statement for Bruce Brown Films on the film, it was not registered for copyright. Solar Productions was owned by Steve McQueen. According to publicity materials contained in the film’s production file at the AMPAS Library, the title On Any Sunday refers to the fact that motorcycle events are often held on Sundays.
       According to the Filmfacts review and an interview with Brown featured as added content to the 1999 DVD release of the film, Brown, who had previously directed several films about surfing (see the below entry for Slippery When Wet ), became interested in making a film celebrating the popularity of motorcycle racing after watching the motorcycle jump scene and chase sequence featuring McQueen in the 1963 film The Great Escape (See Entry). Brown, who felt that previous motorcycle films had focused on gangs and lawlessness, approached McQueen, a motorcycle enthusiast, about making a movie that would show motorcycling as a sport enjoyed by both professionals and amateurs. McQueen then agreed to finance and appear in the picture.
       According to the Jul 1971 Var review, Brown spent two years filming the picture, shooting nearly 150 hours of footage. In the DVD interview, Brown stated that the film was shot in 16mm at a cost of $330,000. A 1974 news item in Box adds that the film, which was released in 35mm, grossed $10,000,000. Brown noted that after completing the film, which utilized twelve cameraman to capture the various races, he realized he could have filmed it much more efficiently using a single camera and shooting much less footage. The Jul 1971 HR review stated that the film was originally to be released on 30 Jun 1971, but was recalled for final editing. According to the Var review, the film was screened at the American Film Institute campus (then in Beverly Hills) on 12 Jul 1971, two days before its Los Angeles opening. The LAHExam review noted that, when the film opened in Los Angeles, it was played with an intermission.
       On Any Sunday was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary. The Jun 1974 Box news item noted that Yamaha motorcycles advanced $3,000,000 to reissue the film, which was to play in forty area theaters and be promoted by Roger Riddell, one of the riders in the film and a friend of McQueen and Brown. In 1981, Riddell and Don Shoemaker, who edited On Any Sunday and served as one of the film’s photographers, made a sequel titled On Any Sunday II , directed by Ed Forsyth. Dust to Glory , a 2005 film depicting the Baja 1000 off-road race, was written and directed by Bruce Brown’s son Dana and included some archival footage from On Any Sunday . A modern source includes David Evans in the cast. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
24 Jun 1974.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 503-05.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Jul 1971.
---
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
15 Jul 1971.
---
Los Angeles Times
14 Jul 1971
Calendar, p. 1, 11.
New York Times
29 Jul 1971
p. 42.
New York Times
7 Aug 1971
p. 17.
Time
16 Aug 1971.
---
Variety
21 Jul 1971
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
Photog
Photog
Photog
Photog
Photog
Photog
Photog
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
MUSIC
Drummer
Organ
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Opticals and titles
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
SOURCES
SONGS
"On Any Sunday," words by Sally Stevens, music by Dominic Frontiere, sung by Sally Stevens.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
July 1971
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 14 Jul 1971; New York opening: 28 Jul 1971
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
89-91 or 95
MPAA Rating:
G
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1970, professional motorcyclist Mert Lawwill, the winner of the 1969 American Motorcycle Association's Grand National Championship, sets out to defend his title for another season. To be awarded the winner’s “No.1” license plate, a cyclist must compete in twenty-seven national races held across the United States. Among the several hundred AMA members, less than fifteen have the ability to win the plate, including Lawwill, Jim Rice, Dave Aldana, Dick “Bugsy” Mann and Gene Romero. Lawwill, who lives in California, spends eight months on the road racing and averages 1,000 hours per year tinkering with his bike. At the Columbus, Ohio track, Lawwill slits his tires with razor blades for better traction and tapes layers of plastic sheeting over his face guard so that he can peel them off as they collect dust. When Lawwill’s throttle cable breaks, however, he loses the race. A series of subsequent breakdowns dim Lawwill's chances of winning the championship, which will be awarded in Sacramento at the last race of the season. Among the tracks on which the racers must compete, the one in Daytona Beach, Florida is considered the “Big Daddy” of the AMA circuit because of its steeply banked sides, which when ridden at high speeds, subject the riders to an intense centrifugal force. Quite different from championship racing is the world of motocross racing in which riders such as actor Steve McQueen and motorcycle shop owner Malcolm Smith compete over rough and tumble terrain, through mud and over mountains, making motocross one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. Smith, whose favorite expression after completing a grueling ride is, “that ... +


In 1970, professional motorcyclist Mert Lawwill, the winner of the 1969 American Motorcycle Association's Grand National Championship, sets out to defend his title for another season. To be awarded the winner’s “No.1” license plate, a cyclist must compete in twenty-seven national races held across the United States. Among the several hundred AMA members, less than fifteen have the ability to win the plate, including Lawwill, Jim Rice, Dave Aldana, Dick “Bugsy” Mann and Gene Romero. Lawwill, who lives in California, spends eight months on the road racing and averages 1,000 hours per year tinkering with his bike. At the Columbus, Ohio track, Lawwill slits his tires with razor blades for better traction and tapes layers of plastic sheeting over his face guard so that he can peel them off as they collect dust. When Lawwill’s throttle cable breaks, however, he loses the race. A series of subsequent breakdowns dim Lawwill's chances of winning the championship, which will be awarded in Sacramento at the last race of the season. Among the tracks on which the racers must compete, the one in Daytona Beach, Florida is considered the “Big Daddy” of the AMA circuit because of its steeply banked sides, which when ridden at high speeds, subject the riders to an intense centrifugal force. Quite different from championship racing is the world of motocross racing in which riders such as actor Steve McQueen and motorcycle shop owner Malcolm Smith compete over rough and tumble terrain, through mud and over mountains, making motocross one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. Smith, whose favorite expression after completing a grueling ride is, “that was really neat,” is considered one of the best. Smith also competes in the International Six-Day Trials in El Escorial, Spain, for which the racers cover more than 200 miles a day in six days, during which they must reach appointed check points at an exact time or be penalized. In addition to being faced with temperatures ranging from twenty to eighty degrees, and elevations stretching from 2,000 to 8,000 feet, at the end of each day, the riders must compete in special tests to earn bonus points. Although the European racers, who are paid a salary to compete, are favored to win, Smith bests them all. Back in the United States, Smith and McQueen enter the Elsinore Grand Prix, a hundred-mile race in which the riders must complete three loops that run from the town of Elsinore, into the foothills and back. Approximately 1,500 riders assemble at the starting line in the tiny town, and as the competition begins, Smith takes a commanding lead, passing some riders as many as three times to win the race. McQueen, who has entered the race under the name “Harvey Mushman,” finishes tenth. Ice racing is probably the most esoteric form of competition depicted in the film. In Quebec, Canada, cyclists don leather masks to protect their faces from the cold and pepper their tires with two-inch spikes to create traction on the ice track, on which they reach speeds up to eighty-miles-an-hour. In Sacramento, the location of the final race of the Grand National circuit, only Aldana, Romero, Rice and Mann are in the running to win the championship. Mann, who has broken his leg in a previous race, removes his cast to compete. After finishing a heat, Rice spins out, crashing his motorcycle, and is carried to an ambulance. One hour later, as the main race is about to start, Rice steps out of the ambulance, climbs on his bike and joins the competition. Shaken by his injuries, Rice slips to last place, and after Aldana totals his bike and Mann catches his shoe in a hole and wrenches his foot, Romero wins the race. Placing sixth, Lawwill must relinquish his No. 1 plate to Romero. Later, in Salt Lake City, Smith scales the hill called the “widow maker,” so named because its forty-five degree angle has prevented anyone from reaching the top. Although Smith fails to reach the peak, he becomes the only competitor to ride his bike all the way back to the bottom. Smith and McQueen join the California Mojave Desert race, held every Sunday, during which amateur and professional riders alike tackle a hundred miles of desert terrain, dodging rocks, mine shafts and desert brush. At the end of the film, Lawwill, Smith and McQueen forsake competition for the pleasure of taking a spin across the countryside to the ocean, where they fashion circles in the sand as their motorcycles crisscross the beach. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.