The Wild One (1954)

79 mins | Drama | February 1954

Director:

Laslo Benedek

Writer:

John Paxton

Producer:

Stanley Kramer

Cinematographer:

Hal Mohr

Editor:

Al Clark

Production Designer:

Rudolph Sternad

Production Company:

Stanley Kramer Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

The working titles of this film were The Cyclists' Raid and Hot Blood . The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "This is a shocking story. It could never take place in most American towns--but it did in this one. It is a public challenge not to let it happen again." Frank Rooney's story was based upon an article in Harper's , reporting an incident that happened in the small northern California town of Hollister on Independence Day weekend 1947 when the town was over-run by a gang of outlaw motorcyclists, members of two Los Angeles gangs known as the Booze Fighters and the Nomads. Although three counties sent squads of sheriffs to subdue the drunken bikers, the article claimed there was no violence except among the bikers themselves. According to a Feb 1953 HR news item, portions of the film were shot at a ranch near Calabasas, CA.
       A Jun 1951 HR news item reported that producer Stanley Kramer assigned Edward and Edna Anhalt as associate producers. However, no further information regarding their participation has been found. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the original script for The Wild One was rejected in early Dec 1952 on the grounds that it was "a story of violence and lawlessness to such a degree (that it is)... anti-social." Less than one week later, however, PCA head Joseph I. Breen gave tentative approval to a new script. A Feb 1953 item by columnist Louella Parsons indicated that the PCA would not ... More Less

The working titles of this film were The Cyclists' Raid and Hot Blood . The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "This is a shocking story. It could never take place in most American towns--but it did in this one. It is a public challenge not to let it happen again." Frank Rooney's story was based upon an article in Harper's , reporting an incident that happened in the small northern California town of Hollister on Independence Day weekend 1947 when the town was over-run by a gang of outlaw motorcyclists, members of two Los Angeles gangs known as the Booze Fighters and the Nomads. Although three counties sent squads of sheriffs to subdue the drunken bikers, the article claimed there was no violence except among the bikers themselves. According to a Feb 1953 HR news item, portions of the film were shot at a ranch near Calabasas, CA.
       A Jun 1951 HR news item reported that producer Stanley Kramer assigned Edward and Edna Anhalt as associate producers. However, no further information regarding their participation has been found. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the original script for The Wild One was rejected in early Dec 1952 on the grounds that it was "a story of violence and lawlessness to such a degree (that it is)... anti-social." Less than one week later, however, PCA head Joseph I. Breen gave tentative approval to a new script. A Feb 1953 item by columnist Louella Parsons indicated that the PCA would not allow producer Stanley Kramer to release the film abroad. The PCA denied the allegation, claiming it had neither "the authority or inclination" to do so. The film was subsequently banned in England in 1955. Marlon Brando, who was billed above the title, received critical acclaim for The Wild One ; the NYT praised his characterization as appropriately "vicious and relentless," HR noted his "tremendous, powerful performance" and Var observed that his "intensity...gets all possible out of the character." Brando's leather jacket, rolled up jeans and biker-boot look from the film has since become an iconic image representing the era's preoccupation with teenage delinquency and typified by the film's famous exchange when a matron asks Brando's character what he is rebelling against and he replies "What d'ya got?"
More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
26 Dec 1953.
---
Daily Variety
23 Dec 53
p. 3.
Daily Variety
20 Jan 1955.
---
Film Daily
20 Jan 54
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jun 51
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Feb 53
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
20 Feb 53
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
13 Mar 53
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
17 Mar 1953
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
23 Dec 53
p. 4.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
26 Dec 53
p. 2118.
New York Times
31 Dec 53
p. 9.
Variety
23 Dec 53
p. 6.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATOR
Set dec
MUSIC
Mus dir
Mus score
SOUND
Sd eng
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Cyclists' Raid" by Frank Rooney in Harper's (Jan 1951).
AUTHOR
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
Hot Blood
The Cyclists' Raid
Release Date:
February 1954
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 30 December 1953
Production Date:
12 February--17 March 1953
Copyright Claimant:
Stanley Kramer Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
31 December 1953
Copyright Number:
LP3230
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Recording
Black and White
Lenses/Prints
Filmed with Garutso Balanced Lens
Duration(in mins):
79
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
16106
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

A gang of ruffian motorcyclists led by Johnny Straibler roar into the town of Carbonville, disrupting a local motorcycle race. The gang mocks the proceedings and Johnny steals a little trophy meant for the winner before the gang rides off to the next small town. While drag racing on the main street, the gang causes a minor accident which upsets many of the locals, who watch uneasily as the bikers settle into Bleeker's Café. Johnny is attracted to Kathie Bleeker, a quiet, practical girl who works at the café for her uncle Frank. Johnny shows Kathie the racing trophy, implying that he has won the event. Fascinated and a little frightened by Johnny's brooding intensity, Kathie is nevertheless taken aback when he offers her the trophy and turns down his offer to dance to the loud jukebox music. The town residents grow increasingly disturbed as several gang members harass locals and continue their flippant and dangerous bike antics. Harry Bleeker, the town's aging, solitary policeman, comes into the café to speak with Johnny, who is annoyed to discover that Harry is Kathie's father. Johnny gathers his gang together and considers pulling out of town when a rival bike gang led by Chino arrives. Chino harbors a grudge against Johnny for breaking away from their once unified gang. Visibly drunk, Chino ridicules the racing trophy and reveals that Johnny stole it, which disappoints Kathie, who is listening from the café. A brawl breaks out between Johnny and Chino, prompting town resident Charlie Thomas to lament that the violence is allowed to go unchecked. When Thomas attempts to drive through the fray, Chino gets his gang to ... +


A gang of ruffian motorcyclists led by Johnny Straibler roar into the town of Carbonville, disrupting a local motorcycle race. The gang mocks the proceedings and Johnny steals a little trophy meant for the winner before the gang rides off to the next small town. While drag racing on the main street, the gang causes a minor accident which upsets many of the locals, who watch uneasily as the bikers settle into Bleeker's Café. Johnny is attracted to Kathie Bleeker, a quiet, practical girl who works at the café for her uncle Frank. Johnny shows Kathie the racing trophy, implying that he has won the event. Fascinated and a little frightened by Johnny's brooding intensity, Kathie is nevertheless taken aback when he offers her the trophy and turns down his offer to dance to the loud jukebox music. The town residents grow increasingly disturbed as several gang members harass locals and continue their flippant and dangerous bike antics. Harry Bleeker, the town's aging, solitary policeman, comes into the café to speak with Johnny, who is annoyed to discover that Harry is Kathie's father. Johnny gathers his gang together and considers pulling out of town when a rival bike gang led by Chino arrives. Chino harbors a grudge against Johnny for breaking away from their once unified gang. Visibly drunk, Chino ridicules the racing trophy and reveals that Johnny stole it, which disappoints Kathie, who is listening from the café. A brawl breaks out between Johnny and Chino, prompting town resident Charlie Thomas to lament that the violence is allowed to go unchecked. When Thomas attempts to drive through the fray, Chino gets his gang to overturn his car. Harry finally breaks up the fracas and demands that the gangs leave town. When they refuse, Harry arrests Chino for the assault on Thomas. Johnny returns to the café to see Kathie, who avoids him and turns down his invitation to attend a dance in Carbonville. As night falls, members of Johnny's gang convince him to break Chino out of jail. The gang cuts the phone lines, then picks up Thomas at his home and locks him in the jail cell, where the drunken Chino remains passed out. The gang returns to Bleeker's to drink heavily and carouse as Johnny watches indifferently. Growing anxious by the biker's behavior, Frank sends Kathie for Harry when he discovers the phone is dead. Several exuberant gang members begin looting stores and when a group of them notices Kathie hurrying from the café, they follow on their bikes, cornering her in an alley before Johnny intervenes and drives her to a secluded spot just outside of town. A group of townsmen then break Thomas out of jail, and when Chino awakens, he stumbles out of the cell and rejoins his gang. Meanwhile, alone with Kathie, Johnny roughly kisses her, but is disturbed by her unexpected submission. He grows angry when she admits to falling in love with him and accuses him of being afraid. After a terse quarrel with Johnny, Kathie walks back into town to discover that the gang has set fire to a building. Johnny follows, but confused by Kathie's declaration and now repelled by the gang's raucous behavior, abruptly decides to leave only to be caught by the angry townsmen led by Thomas. Kathie hurries home to find Harry drinking, fearful of the escalating situation in town. Thomas and the townsmen take Johnny to the basement of a store where they take turns beating him, until Harry, encouraged by Kathie, confronts them. Johnny breaks away and attempts to flee on his bike, but as he speeds down the street, a townsman hurls a wrench at him, causing Johnny to fall and the bike to careen into an old man, killing him. As the community stands about stunned, the county sheriff and several officers drive into town and arrest a number of gang members. The next day Johnny is brought before the sheriff, but refuses to explain the bike accident until Frank reveals the truth. Johnny is set free after the sheriff chastises him for his carelessness, which allowed the situation to get out of control. The remaining gang members are warned to curb their behavior and ordered to leave town. Johnny stops by Bleeker's to return the trophy to Kathie before departing. +

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.