Lee Marvin Blog-A-Thon/ The Wild One

Written by Joe D on August 29th, 2007


Today is the 20th anniversary of Lee Marvin’s death, to celebrate the greatness of Mr. Marvin a group of bloggers are writing about him and some of his films. I’m taking on The Wild One. Wait a minute, you might say, isn’t that a Brando film? Well yeah but Lee comes in and steals the show!

Scene Stealer
Brando looks like he was drawn by Tom of Finland. His costume is so fetishized , boots, tight jeans, black leather jacket, black leather gloves, motorcycle cap, tee shirt, slave bracelet! Did this film give birth to this homoerotic costume? Guys were wearing this in Friedkin’s Cruising.

Vision Of Homoeroticism

But Lee is all crazy macho clown prince of anarchy. The coolest striped shirt in Cinema. A WWII leather flight helmet and goggles. He’s like the Trickster character of Mythology.

The Trickster
Crazy, violent, with a wild sense of humor. His first words to Brando are ” Hello Sweetheart!” and he keeps saying ” Johnny, I love you. Let’s drink some beers and then I’ll beat the Christmas out of you!” Crazy man!

Let’s drink some beers and I’ll beat the Christmas out of you!

These bikers are sort of like crazed Beatniks, more than savage killers. They’re almost proto-hippies, talking jive, dancing, playing. This film was a huge cultural phenomenon.

Slip me Some Skin, Pops!

The Juke gets a lot of Screen Time. Dig that crazy 78 it’s playing

One of my older friends told me that when lt came out, his older brothers went to see it and the next day they all bought motorcycles. Brando is driving a 1951 Triumph Thunderbird. A cool machine.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, That’s where the band got it’s name

I heard he was taught to ride by a black stuntman named King Kong. I also heard that Mr. Kong was having a red hot love affair with blonde bombshell Barbara Payton! Back in the uptight 50’s, Zowie! Lee looks to be driving a stripped down Harley Flathead. Also cool. The movie starts off with the usual motorcycle antics. Riding, run in with the Law, terrorizing a tiny town, then Brando meets the uptight girl. They’re about to leave, the energy’s getting low when Big Bad Lee Marvin shows up! He kicks the film into overdrive, really boosting the octane with his crazed, funny, dangerous portrayal of Chino. Once he and Johnny were in the same gang but alas no more. Now they must kick the shit out of each other everytime they meet. Super Psycho Timothy Carey shows up as a henchman of Lee’s, he throws a beer in Lee’s face to wake him after Brando knocks him out.

Wake up Chino!
Carey is great in Kubrick’s Paths Of Glory and really chews up the scenery in de Toth’s Crime Wave, another noir in the Vol. 4 collection I’ve been writing about. But really this movie is more important as a cultural landmark than a great piece of Cinema. It changed our society in several ways. It was based on a story in Life magazine about a group of bikers that terrorize a small California town and from what I’ve heard the story was exaggerated to sell more magazines.

Ring Around the Square Chick!

The top stars of this time, at least the ones that appealed to the teenagers like Brando and James Dean, exposed their sensitivity, they cried,they were a bit gender confused, Brando always wanted to be beaten in every role he played back then.

Beaten Brando

Not Lee Marvin, he was 100% macho, take it or leave it. Michael Parks, one of the stars of my film One Night With You and star of the late 60’s motorcycle Television series Then Came Bronson told me that when he saw The Wild One he didn’t care for Brando, it was the other guy, Lee Marvin that he wanted to be like. Happy Anniversary Lee, we miss you down here on Terra Firma.
p.s. Check out more Lee Marvin blogs at:

Save me a place in Valhalla, Daddio!