Movie Review: "The Wild One" (1953)


The Wild One (1953) is a movie depicting the 1950s rebellion. The movie was directed by Laslo Benedek and produced by Stanley Kramer. The screen writer John Paxton examined the outlawed motorcycle gang violence which was witnessed in America. The movie was loosely based on real events on the incident of Fourth of July in the year 1947 in Hollister, California where an article by Frank Rooney "The Cyclists' Raid" told of the deaths of about four thousand civilians. The film stars Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando) who is the leader of a group of bikers “The Black Rebels Motorcycle Club”.

“The Wild One” begins with a motorcycle gang that uses disturbance and intimidation wherever they visit. They cause havoc and confusion and the town’s people begin to take the law in their own hands. This happens when they have reason to believe that one of the town’s women, a young girl Kathy Bleeker (Mary Murphy) may have been battered. Many of the town’s people come out and beat Johnny but he succeeds in his escape back to his motorcycle. While in a hurry to leave town, a vigilant group goes after him. Someone throws a tire iron which knocks Johnny out of his motorcycle. The bike runs out of control and hits one humble townsfolk who die instantly. The Sheriff (Jay C. Flippen) arrests Johnny for the murder and the town’s people are excited.

The town’s people campaign for Johnny to get the electric chair for the murder. However, it is revealed that the tire was thrown by one of the town’s people which resulted in the death of the old man. Johnny is freed and the Sheriff takes time to give him a moral lesson. “The Wild One” captures the events of misunderstood youth compared to the established community. There is a gap of communication and misunderstanding which spiraled out of control.


Brando character Johnny persona largely strengthened the leather jacket industry especially the Schott trademark. This is because in the movie, Johnny puts on a Schott Perfecto leather jacket and this has been adopted by many bikers. In this way, black jackets and the motorcycles became rampant once the movie was released. Motorcycles became a representation of youth rebellion in subsequent years. A movie picture of Johnny (Brando) leaning on his motorcycle ultimately became a best-seller.